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by Mike Breen 05.16.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: May 16

R.I.P. Django, Dio and Sammy Davis, Jr., plus a Liberace film update

Today in history was not kind to some major Pop Culture icons. Today we lost the Master of Muppets, Jim Henson (in 1990), Andy Kaufman (1984) and lead "Untouchable" Eliot Ness (1957). On the musical tip, we lost masterful, hugely influential Hot Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1953), Rat Pack singer/performer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990) and, just two years ago, Metal superstar Ronnie James Dio.

Fun fact: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which featured Dio on the mic after Ozzy left, was hugely inspired by Django; both had finger injuries that forced them to adapt — and redefine — their playing styles. Things didn't turn out too badly for either.

Rest in peace, all!

Click on for Born This Day featuring Jonathan Richman, Betty Carter, Janet Jackson and Liberace.

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by Mike Breen 05.17.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: May 17

Bob Dylan deemed "Judas!" and NIN's Trent Reznor's Synth Pop origins

Today is the 46th anniversary of one of the most memorable "heckles" in entertainment history. And the response was pretty classic, too.

In July of 1965, Bob Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival (where he was virtually a god after performing the previous two years) by performing "electric" and with his full band. Those who wanted to hear solo, acoustic Dylan booed as the group launched into "Maggie's Farm," though some in the audience cheered the bold move. He finished the set with a solo, acoustic encore. Lore has it that the boos were from those upset Dylan was playing electric, though his organist Al Kooper said it was because the sound sucked.

Still, Dylan would deal with such polarized reactions for the next year or so as he continued to rock electrically (the sound couldn't have been bad everywhere, right?) for part of his sets. On May 17, 1966, Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. As documented on bootlegs, film and the official release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, which came out in 1998 (the "Royal Albert Hall" referring to the common misconception that the notorious show was in London), one disapproving fan shouted "Judas!" Dylan responded to the reference to the New Testament tale of Jesus betrayer Judas Iscariot by saying, "I don't believe you, you're a liar." The strange yet perfect response may have been a come-back to the "Judas" yelp, but some believe he was responding to another less audible heckle: "I'm never listening to you again, ever!" Which makes more sense. Sorta.

The young man who shouted the heckle broke his silence after three decades and did a few interviews, calling the moment "embarrassing" for himself. The man, Keith Butler, was also interviewed right after the concert, footage of which popped up in the Eat the Document documentary. The then 21-year-old told an interviewer, "Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He's a traitor!"

Video of the "Judas" moment was discovered and featured in the biographical documentary film, No Direction Home. Go to the 56-second mark of the clip to hear it.

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 17 birthday include original bass singer for The Spinners, Pervis Jackson (1938); eclectic Blues legend Taj Mahal (1942); drummer for Prog heroes King Crimson and Yes, Bill Bruford (1949); Irish New Age goddess Enya (1961); keyboardist/songwriter for Phish, Page McConnell (1963); hunky New Kids of the Block star Jordan Knight (1970); former Stoner Rock pioneer with Kyuss turned Hard Rock star with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme (1973); original vocalist for Florida Metalcore band Underoath and current frontman for "Southern Metal" crew Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Dallas Taylor (1980); and Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor (1965).

Reznor — an Ohio native — was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award last month for his work in music over the past 25 years. Presumably not including his time with the early ’80s Cleveland Synth Pop acts Exotic Birds (which opened for Culture Club!) and Slam Bamboo, which sounds nearly identical to Howard Jones.

Pretty fun stuff, actually. The haircuts … not so much.

by Mike Breen 04.11.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: April 11

The Apple I turns 35 and Vincent Gallo turns film and music upside down

Thirty five years ago today, the original Apple Computer — now called Apple I — was introduced. This week it was revealed that Apple's market value hit $600 billion. Only one other company — Microsoft — has ever reached that value level (it's now back down to a paltry $255 billion, according to the Associated Press).

Not even its creator could have known that the little box designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak (with entrepreneurial spiritual guidance by Steve Jobs) would lead to multiple revolutions, including in the worlds of technology, telecommunications, media, music and likely hundreds of other fields.

Who knows where those fields would be today were it not for Apple. One thing that certainly would not exist today is the following song tribute to Jobs by New York City-based progressive House DJ/producer AzR featuring only sounds and tones from an Apple computer (aside from some Jobs quotes). Every time I hear that "chirp," I think my iPod connector cable is going haywire.

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 11 birthday include early Jazz musician Nick LaRocca (1889); Pop and Jazz music's first African-American personal manager (and also a noted Jazz bassist) John Levy (1912); composer of Rock classic "Louie Louie," Richard Berry (1935); original member of The Specials (and singer in Special Beat with The English Beat's Ranking Roger) Neville Staple (1955); late singer/guitarist for one hit wonders Big Country ("In a Big Country") Stuart Adamson (1958); co-founder of Gin Blossoms (who later committed suicide after leaving the band) Doug Hopkins (1961); British Soul/Pop vocalist Joss Stone (1987); and singular actor/musician Vincent Gallo (1962).

Gallo is best known as an indie film actor with a public persona so over the top, many find him obnoxious. Though he's never had a mainstream breakthrough (in part thanks to his refusal to go the Nic Cage route and make shitty, big-budget craptaculars just for the paycheck), he remains one of America's great underrated actors. And his stellar feature Buffalo ’66 (in which he starred and directed and wrote) is one of the best twisted RomComs of all time, second perhaps only to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Hopefully he'll make another masterpiece at some point. But his experimental streak seems pretty domineering.

Gallo has been as adventurous in his musical work as he has in celluloid. When Gallo moved to NYC in the ’70s, he played in a band with art legend Jean Michel Basquiat and later performed in other groups and as a solo artist. He continued to write music for his films (notably Brown Bunny and Buffalo) and has put out a few releases on U.K. electronic/experimental label, Warp Records.

Gallo has directed music videos (including John Frusciante's "Going Inside") and appeared in several clips as well, the most famous being Jay-Z's "99 Problems."

In 2005, Gallo curated a weekend of show at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K., booking Yoko Ono, Frusciante (Gallo, coincidentally, toured in 2001 with a band that included Frusciante's Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer) and Yoko Ono (Gallo and Ono's son Sean Lennon also made an album around that time that has yet to be released).

Here's the first song on his 2001 solo album When, "I Wrote This Song For the Girl Paris Hilton" (for no clear reason).

by Mike Breen 07.22.2015 126 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, Music History at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Growing Up with Bogart’s

How my musical obsession coincided with the rise of the now 40-year-old Corryville concert venue

Though it hasn’t always been a loving relationship, Bogart’s has been a part of my musical life since the ’80s. I’m slightly older than the venue. I was 5 when it opened. But in less than 10 years, as my music fanaticism truly took hold, Bogart’s would become a place of awe to me.

It began when I entered junior high. I went to a school just a few blocks up Vine Street. It was commonly known as Schiel, but I attended during a brief period when it focused on foreign languages and was called the Cincinnati Bilingual Academy.

My fellow musically-obsessive friends at the time loved to hang out on Short Vine. The record stores were a big draw, as was the arcade, Jupiter and Beyond. So we spent as much time as we could in the area after school and on weekends. Bogart’s sat right in the middle of it all, but it was this magical, mysterious entity to us. Because the venue was yet to have “all ages” shows, we’d never seen a concert there. But we would stand out front and marvel at the posters in the window, wishing we could go see some of these very bands with which we were becoming deeply obsessed.

At some point, we discovered the alleyway that ran behind the club and realized that was where the artists entered and loaded in. So we began a ritual that lasted through high school. A few friends and I would linger around the backstage door before shows by artists we loved, hoping to see our heroes and maybe get an autograph. We would also sometimes be able to hear the musicians doing soundcheck, and every so often during our early high school years we’d be there late enough that we could actually hear some of the concert through those back doors.

There I got to meet some artists who were favorites of mine then and remain important to me to this day. Guitarist Andy Summers of The Police stopped at Bogart’s on a solo tour. The Police were by far my favorite band at the time, so it was incredibly exciting to say hello to Summers (who is a tiny, tiny man) and have him sign the pickguard  I yanked off of my cheap acoustic guitar. I also got to meet the members of L.A. Punk legends X. Billy Zoom, the band’s blonde-pompadoured guitarist, was hilarious. He chatted with us briefly and then when we asked for autographs, he happily obliged, pulling a silver paint pen from his leather jacket. It must’ve been a new acquisition because he couldn’t get the cap off, so he handed it to me for help. Nervously, I got it off, but also broke the pen in the process somehow. Zoom started giving me shit and I was horribly embarrassed, but later realized he was likely just busting my chops and having fun with me.

When I was just starting junior high, British Ska/Pop band The English Beat played Bogart’s on its 1980 tour. The Beat were second only to The Police to me, but the show was during a time where we could only longingly look at the gig posters in the front windows. Later, while in high school, with our back door ritual in full swing, General Public — which featured the Beat’s frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger — were booked to play Bogart’s, so we made plans to try and meet Dave and Roger. We arrived a few hours before the show and noticed that a few upperclassmen from our high school were there hanging out as well. It was a cold day and Roger and Dave came hurriedly around the corner towards us, huddled up in coats and trying to stay warm. Dave saw the five or six of us hanging around and instantly invited us in out of the cold. This was my first time inside of Bogart’s and it felt like I’d just entered a sacred temple. I had to leave (Mom was waiting for me), but we got to make that climb up the stairs from the backstage, walk across the stage (where the band members were messing with equipment), then through the big hall and out the front doors. It was a highlight of my life up to that point.

I also camped out around back when Adrian Belew and The Bears (featuring local musicians Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser of The Raisins) were making their Bogart’s debut in 1985 (it was the start of the band’s very first U.S. tour). I was a huge fan of Belew’s solo albums and work with King Crimson and The Raisins were one of my favorite bands. The Raisins were the first “local band” I truly fell in love with and anytime the group played an outdoor, non-club, all-ages show (in a park usually), I was there.

Belew finally was making his way into the club as we approached, accompanied by a man we didn’t recognize. It was Arduser, who was actually the drummer during an earlier period of The Raisins, not during the time when I’d go to see them constantly. As Belew jotted down autographs for me and my friends, he introduced Chris with a silly joke I’ll probably never forget: “This is Chris Arduser, also known as Chris Our Drummer.”

Years later, when I started my writing career, several of these moments connected and came full circle. While living in New York City, I had the chance to interview X’s frontpeople Exene Cervenka and John Doe in their record label offices (I didn’t bring up the Zoom/exploding-pen incident). I did an extensive phone interview with Belew. And through writing about and interviewing Arduser and Fetters over the past 20 years, I think if they saw me on the street they’d recognize me and say, “Hello.” Just being able to talk to those guys (and Nyswonger), considering my fanaticism over their bands from a young age, was and is pretty amazing.

A few years ago, I got to sit backstage at Riverbend with Dave Wakeling when The English Beat opened for 311. He was the kindest “Rock Star” I’d ever met and he actually hung out with me and a few other people I was with before and after the show. (When he let us into Bogart’s, I was convinced it was because one of the older high school girls was very cute, but I’m now more convinced he was just being a cool guy.) At one point, I was standing next to Wakeling at the side of Riverbend’s stage watching 311 play. At one point, he leaned over and said in my ear, “I think me and Roger (who no longer performs with The Beat; Wakeling is the only original member) will get back together at some point.”

If my 13-year-old self would have been told that any of those moments would happen several decades later, he would’ve fainted.

At some point in the ’80s, Bogart’s began experimenting with having all-ages show. My very first show at the club was to see Violent Femmes (I believe in 1986), but, in the early stages of this experiment, Bogart’s herded us under-agers up into the balcony. I remember loving the show and being in the club, but I more vividly recall looking down on the club’s floor and noticing what a small audience there was. While the balcony had hundreds of kids smushed together and barely able to breathe, it seemed like there were only a couple hundred people below us. Still, I’d made it into Bogart’s! Not long after, I made it to the floor-level when the club was hosting high school cover bands for all-ages shows. The Complaints (who also did some originals I really liked) were the big band at my high school at the time and I remember the club being packed with teens for their show. (Fun fact: The Complaints’ drummer was Michael Meisel, who later became a big-time music manager for several popular artists, including Nirvana.)

The club kept expanding its all-ages policy over the next few years. Punk Rock matinee shows were very popular; I fondly remember seeing some of my favorite local Punk acts, like SS-20, The Edge and Human Zoo, thrashing around on the Bogart’s stage. It seems like a weird dream now, but there were also Punk shows that featured wrestling — an actual ring was installed in the middle of the floor and local Punk icon/radio host/Bogart’s employee Handsome Clem Carpenter not only MCed (I believe), but also wrestled.

Another early show I saw was True Believers, Alejandro Escovedo’s early punk-ish band. I remember this show because it was the first time I actually was served beer at the club. My teenage friends and I were sitting at a long table and a waitress came up to take our order; she didn’t flinch when we ordered a pitcher of beer. So, of course, we ended up ordering about 20 pitchers of beer throughout the night.

Around this time, I played my first shows at Bogart’s, something almost any young musician will tell you is a pretty special feeling. My Punk band was added to a few bills by a gracious promoter or fellow local band. I remember being so nervous at those first shows that I could barely play my instrument, partly because I was thinking about all of the famous musicians (U2, Prince, R.E.M.) who had stood right where I was standing. I ended up playing there many times over the years with various bands (opening for bands like New Model Army, Prong, Matthew Sweet and Fugazi), but the early shows were the most memorable. When my first band opened for 7 Seconds, we started to get heckled by a gaggle of skinheads in the crowd (we mixed Rap, Funk and Post Punk into our sound, which offended their purist tastes apparently). Our singer started taunting them so they approached the stage; as one started to climb up, I punched my combat boot directly into his face at the lip of the stage. After our set, the club provided us with a couple of security guards so that we could walk back up and watch 7 Seconds. We were told some skinheads were waiting for us outside, but by the time we got out, they were gone.

By the time I reached college, I was a regular at Bogart’s. I even started befriending some of the staff, dating a couple of bartenders and even marrying one. These were the days when I saw certain bands right before they graduated to “arena rock”-levels of success, like The Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys and Marilyn Manson. One of the more memorable shows was a weird 1995 package tour headlined by Mike Watt and featuring Hovercraft (which included Eddie Vedder on drums, right as he was at his Grunge God peak with Pearl Jam) and a new band fronted by Nirvana’s Dave Grohl on guitar and vocals. Grohl was road-testing his new group, which you may have heard of (rhymes with Doo Righters). Watt headlined the show and was backed by Vedder, Growl and Germs/Foo Fighters/Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear for his set.

As mentioned above, I haven’t always loved Bogart’s. The sound has ALWAYS been hit or miss, often frustratingly. I can only imagine it’s best explained by the set-up of the club (basically a big, long brick shed). There was period when the staff was almost universally rude, with harsh pat-downs at the door (at one point, if you tried to bring in anything that could remotely be considered dangerous — a lighter! A pack of cigarettes! A chain necklace! — it was often just tossed in the trash) and overly-aggressive bouncers roughing up kids who were perhaps dancing a little too hard. About 10 years ago, I got an assignment from U.K. weekly music paper NME to review an Insane Clown Posse concert at Bogart’s. During the pat-down, the door person grabbed the pen I needed to take notes and he tossed it into the garbage. I know ICP crowds can be rowdy, but, even after explaining the pen’s purpose, the doorman just blank-stared me, seemingly convinced that I was just the type to go on a serial pen-stabbing spree during the show.

I loved the ICP show, by the way. The band is a Bogart’s staple and that was my first time seeing them. The music isn’t really up my alley, but the duo’s ridiculous showmanship is truly something everyone should experience at least once. I’m convinced the two ICP dudes know they’re more a comedy act than anything — and probably chuckle at the fans who take them way too seriously —  and that makes me appreciate what they do. It was like a surreal circus show gone awry and I had a smile on my face the entire time. Though afterwards, I felt really bad for the Bogart’s clean-up crew — SO. MUCH. FAYGO. I wonder which show was more dreaded by the janitors — ICP or GWAR?

The Bogart’s of today is strikingly different and in the best shape it’s been since I started going there. I remember several years ago writing a rant about the club (probably after the ICP incident) and pointing out that, in the decades I’d been going to concerts there, the venue had made absolutely zero notable improvements. Sure, they’d upgrade the sound system from time to time (usually without much noticeable improvement to the sound), but the club never seemed to improve conditions for the customers (good Lord, those bathrooms approached CBGB levels at times). Maybe it was a money issue or maybe management felt there was no reason to upgrade, since people were coming anyway. And, besides, where else would they go to see these particular acts?

But the days when going to Bogart’s felt like entering a prison yard are long gone. A few years ago, I remember going to a show and being stunned at how different it was. It was right after some upgrades and, while nothing drastic, it changed the whole vibe of the club and the experience. The staff was friendly. The front-door inspections were respectful. The bathrooms were clean. It was suddenly customer-friendly in a way I never remember it being.

There is no way I can remember every show I saw at Bogart’s, memorable or not. There have been several hundred. But a few stick out. There was the 1990 show when on-the-rise bands Faith No More and Soundgarden opened for cult Metal group Voivod; by the time the tour got to Bogart’s, the openers were blowing up on MTV and radio, which meant that less than half the large crowd stuck around to watch the headliners. Another time, when I started my writing career, I had a pre-show interview with the guitarist for Blind Melon at a restaurant next door to the club. As we chatted, late singer Shannon Hoon (who’d later put on a great show) and the other band members threw food at each other and acted (endearingly) like 12-year-olds.

Another favorite memory was a weird Red Hot Chili Peppers/Faith No More show in 1987. This was when Hillel Slovak (who later died from a heroin overdose) was still playing guitar with the Peppers (a favorite band of mine at the time), and Faith No More featured Chuck Mosley on lead vocals (well before Mike Patton took over the mic). Faith No More opened and ran through most of the material from the We Care a Lot and Introduce Yourself albums, its only releases at the time. Then things got weird and Mosley started telling the sizable crowd that the Chili Peppers weren’t going to show. Then the band started doing jams and weird covers, playing for well over an hour. Mosley did an acoustic version of Suzanne Vega’s “Luka.” By the time guitarist Jim Martin began to do a solo Hendrix-esque rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it felt as if Mosley may not have been kidding.

Faith No More was clearly vamping and trying to fill time. Then, in the middle of a song, four heads started weaving towards the stage from the back of the room. The Chili Peppers hopped onto the stage with Faith No More and jumped up and down for a few minutes, then headed backstage. They put on a great, incredibly energetic show (they said their tour van — a VW Beetle Bus with bullhorns on the front that my friends and I saw in the parking lot afterwards — broke down on the highway, but we all suspected something drug-related caused the delay). For their encore, the Peppers came out naked except for the tube socks on their dicks (part of their schtick at the time) and looked nervous as hell, glancing over their shoulders constantly. Apparently they’d been informed about Cincinnati’s low-tolerance for anything sexual in public (remember, this was the ultra-conservative ’80s, when Cincinnati was most associated with shutting down “obscene” art exhibits and hassling Larry Flynt) and were fearful of being arrested. The band played one or two short, fast songs and then booked it off stage. (It’s just a rumor, but I’d heard the police were indeed there and going to arrest them, but the band escaped in a fan’s car and stayed at their house playing video games all night.)

I’m not a big fan of huge crowds, so sold-out Bogart’s show always put me in panic attack mode. But I’ve braved several and I’m glad I did. When Bob Dylan decided to play some smaller clubs in 1999 and chose Bogart’s as one of them, I proudly took my dad to see him. I’ve seen Dylan numerous times over the years and more often than not I’ve left disappointed. But at Bogart’s, he sounded amazing and played inspiringly. I also took the love of my life to an over-stuffed Bogart’s in 2003 see her favorite band of the time — The White Stripes — when she was several months pregnant with our child (if she’d given birth, the baby would have had to have been passed to the exit, crowd-surf style, because it was so packed).

Bogart’s has admirably supported local and regional artists since as long as I can remember. Locals were given opening slots for big-time bands often. After my first band played a crazy set at one of the club’s battle of the bands (competing mostly with straight-forward Hair Metal bands), Dan Reed, manager at the time, came up and asked if we wanted to open for Jane’s Addiction. We very much did, but Jane’s took off and ended up playing Hara Arena in Dayton instead. The aforementioned local Punk shows were always a blast. And I have fond memories of 97X’s old 97Xposure band contests. The club’s “battle of the bands” events (which I mostly attended as a guest judge after my competitive years were over) could sometimes be painful, but I always enjoyed watching the younger bands exhibiting that same awe that I felt the first time I played there (and it was fun to play “Spot the Parents”). The club also hosted a couple of benefits for local community radio station WAIF that were a lot of fun, one featuring a ton of local bands playing Christmas songs (my band decided to perform in just Christmas underwear — briefs! — which must’ve been horrifying) and one with local groups playing David Bowie songs. And I spent many great New Year’s Eves at Bogart’s when the great Columbus, Ohio band Royal Crescent Mob played there every year. I seem to remember The Afghan Whigs taking the slot a few times, too. (The many Whigs shows I’ve seen at Bogart’s, including their most recent one a couple of NYEs ago, have been some of my all-time favorites.) In recent years, CityBeat has hosted a new band showcase at Bogart’s — the staff has always been great and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the shows.

I wouldn’t say Bogart’s is my favorite club — I prefer smaller venues, in general. But I’m very thankful it exists. It has been the one constant, reliable place to check out live music of every sort in Cincinnati ever since I was a teen, and its mid-size has made it possible for mid-level acts to play the Queen City instead of skipping it altogether. More or less, my musical life has revolved around Bogart’s, and it’s hard to imagine what it (or Cincinnati’s concert scene, in general) would have been like without it. Thankfully, we don’t have to.

CityBeat celebrates the 40th anniversary of Bogart's with this week's issue. Check out Brian Baker's overview Cover Story on the club's rich history and promising future, plus sidebars on Brian's favorite moments, the view from John James' nearby record stores, Prince's surprise visit in 1984 and the infamous Heavy Metal Wheel of Sex.

by Mike Breen 12.31.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Music History, Music Video at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sacred Harp Sessions Spawn "Many Rivers"

Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies cover Jimmy Cliff classic for latest episode of Thomas' yearlong tribute to her favorite songs and people

This particular version of "Many Rivers to Cross," featuring Greater Cincinnati greats Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies, has been haunting me all week (in a great way). It was recorded as the third episode in a brilliantly conceived yearlong project by Thomas and several of her creative pals, The Sacred Harp Sessions, in which she documents her musical inspirations in monthly installments.

"Many Rivers" is such a great song, with its uplifting and optimistic Gospel vibe shining through the lyrical desperation. Thomas and The ’Pies version might just be the best I've heard outside of Jimmy Cliff's original version (sorry, UB40). And I thought it kind of fitting for New Year's Eve (or, perhaps more fittingly, New Year's Day morning) because, although there is a bittersweet aura, Cliff wrote and sang about overcoming his heartbreak and moving on to cross many more rivers in his future. Though he's devastated that his "woman left … and … didn't say why," he knows he'll live through it thanks to his strong will and pride. If you had a tough 2012, make this your theme song on your way to a better 2013.

The Sacred Harp Sessions (produced, on the video end, by Alex and Tiffany Luscht of Mind Igniton) is an engaging passion project, with Thomas choosing songs, area musicians and even local studios she admires and appreciates. Ultimately, it's a tribute to the things that have made Thomas who she is today as an artist (and person).

In the accompanying videos, Thomas talks about what the songs mean to her, but the short films are not purely autobiographical — they can also be educational. The first episode, for example, discussed Cincinnati's King Records and the city's Hank Williams connection; Kelly recorded Williams' "Lost Highway" with Arlo McKinley at the location of downtown's former Herzog recording studio, believed to be the last standing building in which Williams recorded.

Episode 2 of The Sacred Harp Sessions found Thomas teaming up with Cincinnati Blues piano legend Ricky Nye at downtown studio Sound Images for a great take on Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."

Click here to subscribe to Thomas' YouTube channel so you know when the latest installments drop and can watch and re-watch your favorites. And keep an eye on Thomas' website for any updates and for limited-edition free downloads of the latest tracks recorded for the project ("Many Rivers" is currently available).

Thomas is currently singing in three bands — her longtime Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups crew, the classic Country outfit The Tammy WhyNots and The Lonesome Sound (which formed recently after the aforementioned Hank Williams sessions). She'll be starting off 2013 with free shows with all three acts — The Fabulous Pickups join Sassy Molasses at Northside Tavern Jan. 4, on Jan. 5 The Tammy WhyNots play with Tex Schramm and The Radio King Cowboys and Doctor Bombay and The Atomic Bachelor Pad at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub and The Lonesome Sound has a gig on Jan. 12 at downtown's Taqueria Mercado.

by Mike Breen 02.29.2012
Posted In: Music History at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
holly glasses

This Date in Music History: Feb. 29

Special 'Leap Day' edition!

Since this date only occurs every four years, there are fewer birthdays and notable happenings in the history books. But things have indeed occurred on Feb. 29 throughout time — even a few related to music. Here's a quick roundup:

Buddy Holly's famous glasses were found at the Mason City Sheriff's office in Iowa, buried in old files. They also found Big Bopper's watch. Both items were believed to have been worn by the pair when they died together in a plane crash in 1959. Holly's glasses are on display at the Buddy Holly Center in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas.

The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers wins Album of the Year at the 1968 Grammys.

• In 1996, musician/songwriter Wes Farrell, who wrote and co-wrote songs performed by The Beatles and The Animals, many hits by The Partridge Family and Ohio State anthem "Hang on Sloopy," died on this day in 1996 from cancer.

• Don't feel so bad, Sammy Hagar. Eric Clapton can't drive 55, either! The guitar god's license was suspended on this day in 2000 after he was busted speeding.

• Guitarist for Punk pioneers Social Distortion, Dennis Danell, died at the age of 36 on this day in 2000, reportedly from a brain aneurysm (though Mike Ness claims it was a heart problem).

And here's your song for today: a slanted Jazz freakout called "Leap Year Day" by Chicago Lounge music revivalists (they called it "Garage Jazz") The Coctails, taken from the group's Popcorn retrospective box set.

Born This Day: A few psychopaths were born today — like Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (played by Charlize Theron in the film Monster) and Tony Robbins (OK, maybe the motivational-speaking superstar's just a little weird) — but there have been a few musical types born on Leap Day as well.

Big Band Jazz superstar Jimmy Dorsey was born Leap Day, 1904.

Rap star Ja Rule — who released a new album yesterday — turns 36 today and will celebrate in a New York state prison, where he's serving time for gun possession charges (TMZ reports he will party in jail with special meals throughout the day — corn flakes, Jamaican "patties" and "turkey stew").

Chris Conley of Emo favorites Saves the Day was born Leap Day 1980.

Mark Foster, frontman for breakout stars Foster the People (if you haven't heard their hit "Pumped Up Kicks," please tell us where your bunker is located), was born today in 1984.

And poet, activist, spoken word star and inventive recording artist Saul Williams was a Leap Newborn on this day in 1972. In honor of Saul's 40th b-day, here's a video for a track off of his amazing Trent Renzor-produced album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!

by Mike Breen 05.17.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Music Video, Music History at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Tribute to Colin Hay and "Overkill"

Men At Work frontman plays 20th Century Theater tonight

Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.

In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.

Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.

To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.

“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.

Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.

Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.

Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.

by Mike Breen 03.30.2012
Posted In: Music History at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Date in Music History: March 30

Artists gone too soon and the 30 greatest punching bags in Pop music

On this day in 2005, two young musicians died well before their time.

After reportedly battling a bipolar disorder and drug addiction, SoCal Punk drummer Derrick Plourde — who had played with bands like The Ataris, Lagwagon (the band that gave him his start), The Mad Caddies and others — killed himself with a gun. He was 33.

Lagwagon's seventh studio album, Resolve, released later in 2005, was inspired by and dedicated to Plourde. The album became Lagwagon's first to break the Billboard 200, notching a peak position of 172. Here's the single (used on a Tony Hawk video game soundtrack … as Plourde would have wanted?), "Heartbreaking Music."

Also today in 2005, Hideaki Sekiguchi of the Japanese Garage Punk trio Guitar Wolf (known simply as Billy or Bass Wolf) had a fatal heart attack in Tokyo, just after completing a successful tour of America. Sekiguchi was 38 and left behind a wife and two kids. Guitar Wolf — which has put out albums on indie labels like Matador and Narnack in the States — carried on with a new bassist and has released three albums since Sekiguchi's death.

Here's Guitar Wolf's "UFO Romantics" from the band's album of the same name (Sekiguchi's last with the group):

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 30 birthday include legendary Blues singer/harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (1914); drummer/poet/songwriter with The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge (1941); drummer for The Surfaris and Love, Ken Forssi (1943); revered Rock/Blues guitarist Eric Clapton (1945); singer/songwriter ("Fast Car") Tracy Chapman (1964); schmaltzy Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion (1968); singer/songwriter Norah Jones (1979) and onetime Rap star MC Hammer (1962).

While Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) did much to popularize Hip Hop, becoming one of its first superstars, he remains one of Pop music's greatest punching bags. Some might say it was his money issues; many had a hard time feeling sympathy as they saw or read about some of the gaudy "luxury items" Hammer had to give up. But, mostly, Hammer was a victim of his music (and videos) just not standing the test of time even slightly.

Spin magazine recently ran its list of The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in History and somehow, despite his running partner Vanilla Ice coming in at No. 6, Hammer was nowhere to be found (nor was, miraculously, fellow birthday celebrator Celine Dion). Click here to read Spin's rundown, here to read it without having to click to the next page 400 times or just look below for the straight-up list. I say take Duran Duran or Lawrence Welk (?!) off and put Hammer in. Justice for Hammer!

1 Milli Vanilli
2 Limp Bizkit
3 Kenny G
4 Creed
5 Insane Clown Posse
6 Vanilla Ice
7 Emerson, Lake & Palmer
8 Matchbox 20
9 Pat Boone
10 Yoko Ono
11 Nickelback
12 Michael Bolton
13 Journey
14 Billy Ray Cyrus
15 Puff Daddy
16 Winger
17 Barry Manilow
18 KC and the Sunshine Band
19 Lawrence Welk
20 The Osmonds
21 Duran Duran
22 Christopher Cross
23 Smash Mouth
24 Black Eyed Peas
25 Lana Del Rey
26 Candlebox
27 John Mayer
28 New Kids on the Block
29 Phil Collins
30 The Monkees

And here's the "full version" of one of Hammer's greatest hits (he had to drag down James Brown with him?). Happy 50th, Stanley! No gasface for you this year, you loveable ol' pants wrangler.

by Zohair Hussain 10.28.2013
Posted In: Music Commentary, Music History at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

All Yesterday's Memories, All Tomorrow's Parties

Remembering Lou Reed

I was a few months shy of 16 when I first heard the lucidly stark voice of Lou Reed stream over the airwaves. I was just another suburban weirdo, looking for a justified rebellion to call his own. I had spent those “formative years” sleeping around with any album loud enough to drown out my inner white noise, moving through a steady stream of Hardcore, Punk, Metal  — if they were screaming it, I was buying it. As it turns out, though, what I was really looking for was a quieter sort of revolution, and at the helm was Mr. Lou Reed, telling me with a frank honesty that there was freedom in the composition. It was, like any great lesson, one I’d come to learn in time.

To say I enjoyed those first striking chords of “Heroin” would be an understatement. It was on a snowy night in 2007, crammed in the back of a friend's Yaris Liftback, when I first heard it. I can’t remember exactly where we were previous to that moment, when that raw melody first came in. All I can remember is how I suddenly became more aware of myself than ever before.

Everything I knew about music, about artistry, about writing — all of it would change with that first overlap of beautiful melody. I was mesmerized, shaken from a stupor of conditioned knowledge and thrown into a concoction of John Cale’s haunting strings with Lou Reed’s candid crooning. By the time Maureen Tucker’s drumming kicked in, sparse in its reverberation, my resolve would be just as stripped, replaced by a wily knot that would take years to untie. Though, right then, the song was just “fucking awesome.”

It would only be years later, waking up to a chilled October morning in 2013, that this memory would even begin to matter. As the headlines would come to read, “Lou Reed Dead at 71,” so, too, would the horizon appear most clearly.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the crossover of influences, the collaboration of mediums in shaping any sort of artistry. As a writer, I can proudly say that the recorded sound has had just as much influence on me as the written word. And when I heard the Velvet Underground for the first time, it became clear that they believed in a similar marriage, affirmed on the morning of Oct. 27. With the news of the passing of a legend came an onslaught of anecdotes from around the arts world, plastered against my computer screen. Amidst the mass of legends, one story stood out in particular.

As according to Rolling Stone, it was 1965, and the first few months of the Velvet Underground playing under their iconic moniker. They had began a residency playing in New York’s Café Bizarre and in the beginning stages of developing their distorted and chaotically composed sound. Management was set on having performers play more contemporary numbers, and warned the band not to play their original composition “Black Angel Death Song.” They went on to perform the number anyway, fit with all the chilling accidentals in its string arrangements, and were fired immediately.

Though they would emerge from that loss victorious (it led to their introduction to Andy Warhol, the man who would come to produce their record and put them on the map of the underground art scene of ‘60s New York), there was something bigger about that moment, something more pressing in my association with it.

Incidentally, “Black Angel Death Song” was the first thing I clicked on Sunday morning when I heard the news of its writer’s passing. The strings were suddenly more haunting, and the story seemed all the more important. It was yet another quintessential moment in the life of Lou Reed, a man who sang with unbridled frankness, who played with unencumbered passion, and who inspired me with the tirelessness of his dedication to honest expression. It transported me back, seven years and a lifetime ago, to that night in December 2007, when I first pricked my ears with another of his songs, that found, all at once, both comfort and chaos within itself. Though I’d spend the lapsed time between 2007 and 2013 finding appreciation for the 40-plus years of Reed’s prolific career — from “Black Angel Death Song” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” through “Satellite of Love” and “Pale Blue Eyes” and even up until his Hudson River Wind Meditations — it would always be that compositions that would stay, forever imprinted in my mind.

“Heroin” became, for me, a love song to the in between — it was everything I’d been listening to up until that point and nothing I’d ever heard before; it was the sentimentality of Indie Rock, the calm before the double bass in hardcore, the simplistic, chord interplay of Punk and its cleaner cut cousin Pop. And, at the same time, it was also the recklessness of avant-garde, the soundtrack to the colors of an underground New York I’d only experience in preserved murals and snapshots. It was everything I’d known, and everything I would come to know about music, about art, about sound and about writing.

There are moments that comprise your past, songs that take you to a memory you thought you’d left. And then there are moments that define your future, songs that propel you forward into infinity.

Lou Reed, and what he accomplished before, with and after the Velvet Underground, stood as a symbol for finding freedom in ones composition, and pushing the statements made to work in a fashion of success.

It was a lesson I would learn time and time again in my own work, as I moved through the progression of my writing and my own performance techniques. I would come to face my own obstacles, fight my own battles against normative expectations. And it would be in those times I fell the deepest, my resolve threatening to falter, that this education would come back to me, mysterious in its origins, all the while growing, like a backbone that stood rigid for honest experimentation and freedom in the composition.

Even now, as this mystery’s been unearthed, its inductor put to rest, ahead of me remains miles and miles of still shrouded possibility. But against that wall of lessons I’ll stand, riveted, staring towards the looming unknown. And I’ll try for a different kind of kingdom, if I can.

by Charlie Harmon 09.10.2014
Posted In: Music History at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

These Walls Have Heard It All: Bogart's

Bogart’s, the never-so-clean music venue that sits along the construction-ridden stretch of pavement known as Short Vine, goes back far beyond any concert you may have seen there in the past several decades. It holds a rich history dating back more than a century, although this isn’t so easily apparent now.

Live Nation, a national live-events company that promotes acts and operates a large list of venues around the country, took over Bogart’s in 1999 in a deal with Nederlander Entertainment, who was operating the venue at the time.

One of the myriad changes they have made over the years has been a revamp of the old website, molding it to the standard format they use for all their venues, which in a way deemphasizes the historical significance of the place. I’d think the wrinkled timeline of the building might be a point of interest, but I suppose concert-goers are more concerned with getting tickets to collectively bob heads in a loud room than the age-old energy of that very room.

Here’s what you may not know about Bogart’s.

Bogart’s hasn’t always been Bogart’s. Built in 1890, it was originally called the Nordland Plaza Nickelodeon and, fitting with popular entertainment of the period, it was a vaudeville theater.

Imagine this: lights illuminate figures flying through the air, turning and twisting as they clutch their trapeze over the small stage. They complete a routine and the room is filled with a crowd-hushing roar, followed by the entrance of a ringmaster rearing a lion up to full height right in front of your eyes. He leads it in circles, keeping it calm and cool, before leading it back offstage to allow a magician to come out, accompanied side-stage by two comedic cross-gender impersonators, hooting and howling as the illusionist pulls a hair out of his hat or cuts a man in half. The show ends with a small orchestra playinga classical piece to guide three dancers across the platform.

This was “vaudeville,” fringe American entertainment named after the creation of Sargent’s Great Vaudeville Company in Louisville. It’s fascinating to wonder what wild things we could have seen at the Nordland Plaza in the early 20th century.

As technology developed, folks apparently grew less accustomed to leaving their houses for public, live entertainment, and TV took over the world of entertaining. The theater succumbed to the competition from the television industry and transformed into a German film theater in the mid-1950s under the same name.

Some time later it reverted back to live entertainment, becoming a restaurant theater with the new name Inner Circle. This nightclub was far from the talk of the town, slowly spiraling into failure until a man named Al Porkolab and two partners bought the building.

They named it Bogart’s, which was short for Bogart’s Café Americain, a reference to the movie Casablanca, apparently one of Pokolab’s favorites. In its earliest days it followed the movie as a theme, decorating with tropical trees and offering food with the ambiance of tuxedoed servers and a lounge band. The venue only sat a few hundred people at this point, and the restaurant-club followed Inner Circle down a fissure to failure in just months.

At this point Porkolab took over, buying out his partners and extensively remodeling the building, turning it into a nightclub that featured local, national and international music acts. It opened as such in 1982.

It remained open in this state, still housing only several hundred people, for a decade. During that time it garnered a little heat, specifically from Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken in 1985, who wanted the place shut down due to the neighborhood havoc that would ensue after the late-night dance parties the club would host from 2-6 a.m. on Sundays.

The building underwent another round of renovations in 1993 that turned the few hundred seats into 1,500, the current capacity of the venue. With the larger volume, the venue began bringing in acts that were too big for a small bar or club but wouldn’t get booked by a big-time venue.

Many bands you know now that would sell out a huge venue played Bogart’s in their proving days. To name a few, acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, Slayer and Pearl Jam (who, as a matter of fact, is coming in October to play US Bank Arena) impressed crowds on that intimate stage.

In ’97, Nederlander took over operations, leading us back to the highly reputed ownership by Live Nation, who according to their short paragraph of history on the site, “continues the tradition of quality live entertainment that has been [the venue's] forte since the building was built.”

Check out the upcoming shows at this old vaudeville hall:

Sept. 11: Taking Back Sunday
Sept. 12: Paul Weller

Sept. 16: August Alsina: Testimony Live
Sept. 19: Nick Carter and Jordan Knight

Sept. 20: Blacklight College Party
Sept. 26: Matisyahu

Go here for Bogart's photos throughout the years.