Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Popular Blogs
by Mike Breen 05.29.2013

MidPoint Music Fest 2013: Round 2 Lineup Announcment

Shuggie Otis, Youth Lagoon, Kurt Vile and more set for September festival

The second round of announcements for this year's MidPoint Music Festival lineup was featured in this week's issue of CityBeat, on streets now. For those outside of Greater Cincinnati (or you lazy folks who don't want to walk to pick up a newspaper), here's the official press release:

For Immediate Release

Artist Announcement “Round 2” for MPMF.13

Original Pioneer Shuggie Otis to headline Washington Park 

Opening Night 

Cincinnati, Ohio, May 29, 2013 —Last month, after almost 40 years, Shuggie Otis, released a new album.  

In September, MidPoint Music Festival (MPMF.13) will present Otis, one of the most mysterious figures in pop music history, as this year’s original pioneer.  He will headline in Washington Park opening night with Cody ChesnuTT.

According to the New York Times (NYT), Otis’s album, “Wings of Love” (Epic/Legacy), which includes 14 previously unreleased tracks, is being packaged a alongside a reissue of his previous and most celebrated recording, “Inspiration Information,” from 1974.  

“MPMF has always been known for the pioneering music we showcase, but I am especially excited and proud to present Shuggie Otis,” said Dan McCabe, artistic director of MPMF.13. “Unlike other original pioneers presented at past MPMFs like Ralph Stanley, Booker T. and Van Dyke Parks, Shuggie’s impact is only just now coming to light.  Shuggie Otis speaks directly to the MPMF artist who often sacrifices success and notoriety for their art.”

On May 3, the first 13 artists were announced for the twelfth edition of the downtown Cincinnati festival happening September 26-28, 2013.  Today, 14 additional artists are being released:




SHUGGIE OTIS: “He’s the unsung hero of blues and funk. His music is so potent that it only blossomed 30 years after it was first released.”  - Questlove

“…a missing link between Sly, Jimi, Stevie, Prince and Frank Ocean." -Rolling Stone

KURT VILE: One of Coachella 2013’s 10 Must See Acts – Rolling Stone

“Wakin on a Pretty Daze” is a SPIN essential and a real testament to putting a great deal of effort into making something feel effortless.” - SPIN

YOUTH LAGOON: “8.7 / BEST NEW MUSIC. Wondrous Bughouse looks inward and discovers the endless possibilities of imagination and introspection.” -Pitchfork

ON AN ON: Broke new ground on their latest recording with accomplished producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals, Los Campesinos!)  

BATHS: Just yesterday (May 28, 2013) second album Obsidian named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork.  Debut album Cerulean, blurs the line between post-modern pop and the LA beat scene and earned “Best Of” recognition from Pitchfork & The Onion’s A.V. Club.

MURDER BY DEATH: "They've cultivated a cult-like fan base via their unique sound, which mingles elements of country, indie rock and alternative music into collections of songs that are the sonic equivalent of 'No Country For Old Men.'"— PureVolume

BLEACHED: “…originally found cult status with their punk band Mika Miko. It's the ole "they've cleaned up, but are still same degenerates you know and love" trick. . – The Village Voice

SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME: The jubilant fun of Motown and Northern soul with a decidedly indie approach. 

SAN FERMIN: A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition.

SECRET COLOURS: Revel in being the bastard seed of the '60s psychedelia and '90s Britpop bloodlines. 

NAT BALDWIN: Double bassist/singer-songwriter Nat Baldwin's spent years as the Dirty Projectors bassist and former disciple of free jazz legend Anthony Braxton.

WILD CUB:  “…[Wild Cub’s] brand of darkly-tinged new wave recalls elements of the youthful abandon of John Hughes soundtracks, the baleful allure of Greg Dulli, and the clockwork electronics of New Order’s middle period.” – KEXP

THE SHILOHS: The Vancouver foursome released full-length debut, So Wild earlier this year.

BIRDS OF CHICAGO: “They project organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements that bridge traditional and modern approaches." – Chicago Tribune

To view the whole list of artists for MPMF.13 to date, visit MPMF.com.

MidPoint Music Festival continues its 12-year tradition as the region’s frontline of music exploration, featuring an impressive and diverse lineup.  Music fans everywhere flock to Cincinnati in September to be a part of this long running music event that started in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), the Cincinnati neighborhood that’s as cutting edge as the festival itself.    

OTR remains a pivotal location, home to a number of MPMF.13 stages.  OTR is on the National Register of Historic Places and was voted best Cincinnati Neighborhood in CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati publication in 2011 and 2012.  Since 2004 more than $255 million has been invested in the revitalization of OTR, including the $48 million renovation of Washington Park, which includes an outdoor music stage that serves as one of MPMF’s main stages. 


Advance tickets are on sale now at www.mpmf.cincyticket.com. All-access passes are $69 and VIP passes are $169

About MPMF 

Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival has developed a reputation as the place to find your new favorite band. MidPoint's embrace of emerging artists reflects the same pioneering ethic of Cincinnati's celebrated music history and its present day music-makers. The MPMF storyline continues to be diverse, dynamic and adventurous. Stay up to date at MPMF.com, like its official Facebook page, or by following the festival on Twitter.

MPMF.13 is made possible thanks to the generous support of its sponsors, including Dewey’s Pizza and Biore. 

by Mike Breen 10.26.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Review: The Afghan Whigs & Wussy at Bogart's

Two of Cincinnati's finest play much aniticpated homecoming show and exceed expectations

“I’ve been waiting for this for six months,” Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli said to start off the Cincinnati-spawned Rock crew’s first concert in the Queen City since a Sept. 25, 1999, appearance at the same venue. That ’99 show turned out to be the Whigs’ last public concert anywhere before the group’s recent return on a global reunion tour earlier this year.

As the extended band built upon the swarming buzz of opener “Crime Scene (Part One),” a lot of fans in the audience could relate to Dulli’s excitement for a hometown show, something most for years thought would never happen. They’ve been waiting a lot longer than six months (when the show was announced), though. More like 13 years.

The show kicked off a little after 9 p.m. with Cincy favorites Wussy. The foursome is opening several of the shows on the Whigs’ current U.S. run. Though the group had some sound issues (they clanged away to get levels a little before starting, apologizing and telling the audience they hadn’t gotten a soundcheck), many in the crowd got swept away by the rockers’ ragged, emotive and infectious sound. Though the Cincinnati stop on the tour is obviously the show where the audience would be most familiar with Wussy (many fans around me were dancing and shouting every lyric back as co-frontpeople/singers/guitarists Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver switched off vocals), it was fascinating to see that moment on people’s faces when you can tell they’ve been lured in — “Hey, these guys are really good.” It bodes well for the band, which will join Heartless Bastards on tour as soon as the Whigs dates end.

Short on its trademark hilarious banner (a theme for the night, though in Wussy’s case, it was difficult to hear much of anything the members said between songs), Wussy busted through a great set that touched on all four of their studio album releases to date. Like the albums, that created a great “calling card” of a set for potential new fans, as Wussy moved from more emotionally moving, slow swaying songs (like opener “Waiting Room” from last year’s excellent Strawberry and the transcendent “Muscle Cars” from 2009’s self-titled effort) to its often humorous (though still often just as passionate) and punkish upbeat tunes like the uber-catchy “Happiness Bleeds” and the relentless, wired “Pulverized” (another Strawberry track).

The core quartet was rounded out by John Erhardt, a former bandmate of Cleaver’s in The Ass Ponys who added some tasty shading with his pedal steel guitar (unfortunately, his contributions were probably effected most by the weak sound, which often made him inaudible in the mix). Whigs bassist John Curley sat in on a song, putting a jolt into the crowd and leading bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Messerly to joke that, while everyone should be excited about the Whigs reuniting, they were now going to be treated to a “Staggering Statistics reunion” (Curley played in that local band with Wussy drummer Joe Klug; SS singer/guitarist Austin Brown was not present, so it was really a 2/3 reunion-ish).

Between sets, the anticipation of Whigs’ fans that could be seen on social media sites since the show was first announced six months ago was becoming palpable. The lights went down, the crowd erupted and The Afghan Whigs took the stage (adorned with a simple red backdrop, reminiscent of the one at the old Southgate House, and a shimmering disco ball) to kick off an hour-and-a-half-plus show that showed that this was far from the same band that performed at Bogart’s 13 years ago.

The Whigs have always been an amazing live band, but the current incarnation was a different kind of amazing — tight, focused and seemingly thrilled to be playing with each other again. Exemplifying the band’s decision to return for a full tour and do things smarter were the mere physiques of Curley and Dulli, who seemed to have recognized the unhealthy trappings of touring and preemptively hit the gym hard so they were ready for them. The always rail-thin original guitarist Rick McCollum was his usual enigmatic self, knocking out his brilliant, snaking leads while practically hidden on the far left of the stage. Though fairly subdued, occasionally McCollum stepped out of the shadows, doing his Jimmy Page-influenced stutter-step stage moves.

The Afghan Whigs were literally a different band than 13 years ago as well. Longtime associate Doug Falsetti was back on percussion and back-up vocals, but there were plenty of new faces — guitarist Dave Rosser and drummer Cully Symington (members of Dulli’s Twilight Singers) plus Rick Nelson, who played cello, violin and keys.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Whigs that broke up in 1999 and the one that played last night was focus. I personally missed the funny, sometimes baiting banter for which Dulli’s infamous, but it made the show more powerful and fluid just sticking to the songs. The Afghan Whigs proved themselves one of the best live Rock & Roll bands on the planet right now with a no-BS set that hit upon songs from their entire career.

That was another “new thing” — the band’s last Bogart’s show featured no material from the Whigs’ first two SubPop albums (save standard finale “Miles Iz Dead” from Congregation). Last night, the band did “Miles” as the finale again, but also did ferocious versions of Congregation’s “I’m Her Slave” and “Conjure Me” and even “Retarded,” the fiery lead-off track from the 1990 SubPop debut, Up In It.

Instead of the swaggering “gentleman” teasing the crowd and making jokingly arrogant statements between songs, Dulli came off like a master frontman, taking off his guitar for the old R&B cover of “See and Don’t See” and roaming through the crowd, dancing frequently and, most importantly, hitting every note. Dulli has reportedly quit smoking and it has done wonders for his voice. In the past, he’d sometimes gasp for air doing a song like “Conjure Me” or nearly choke on some of the more throatier howls; last night, all cylinders were clicking and he hit all the right notes, including the “Yeah!” yells of “Retarded” (one of the best screams in Rock & Roll), which he's now nailing probably better than he has since the group recorded the song.

The more upbeat material from the Whigs’ swan song, 1965, got the crowd moving even more intensely as the Whigs grooved hard on their distinctive funkiness. And tracks from Gentlemen and Black Love were received like the classics they are, from the ominous “Fountain and Fairfax” and the whip-snap of “Gentleman” to the woozy teetering of “When We Two Parted” (which was given a bigger, sharper reworking), a hard and heavy “My Enemy” and a soaring “Faded,” one of the best “ballads” of the ’90s during which the group paid tribute to one of the best ballads of the ’80s, “Purple Rain.”

The Whigs have always quoted from other songs during their sets (kind of like how a Jazz saxophonist will sneak in various melodies while playing) and last night was no exception. Dulli inserted a touch of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” into “66” (a holdover from their final touring days) and also worked up a snippet of The Emotions’ Disco classic “Best of My Love” as an intro. And during their most recent new song, a great cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes,” Dulli (playing keys) segued into “Wicked Games” by Canadian R&B newcomer The Weeknd.

Early on in the set, Dulli thanked Wussy for opening up and remarked on how Cincinnati has always produced a ton of great bands. “Always has, always will,” he added. Those words carry a lot of weight coming from a Cincinnati music icon.

I came away from the show with one thought — “This can’t be it.” Yes, the group is returning for another Bogart’s show on New Year’s Eve, but The Afghan Whigs are better than they’ve ever been right now and, judging from various interviews, all three members are enjoying the experience immensely — why stop now? If they can get through this tour with those good vibes still peaking, why wouldn’t they make a new album and keep it going?

UPDATE: Here's is the full setlist from the Bogart's show Oct. 25 (from setlist.fm):

    1.    Crime Scene, Part One 

    2.    I'm Her Slave 

    3.    Uptown Again 

    4.    What Jail is Like 

    5.    Conjure Me 

    6.    When We Two Parted/Over My Dead Body 
(Drake cover)
    7.    Gentlemen 

    8.    Crazy 

    9.    Best of My Love /66 
(The Emotions cover)
    10.    My Enemy 

    11.    Retarded 

    12.    See and Don't See 
(Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
    13.    Lovecrimes /Wicked Games 
(Frank Ocean cover)
    14.    Going to Town 

    15.    Who Do You Love?/Fountain and Fairfax 
(Bo Diddley cover)
    16.    Faded
    17.    Miles Iz Ded 

    18.    Into the Floor

by Deirdre Kaye 12.08.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Music Commentary at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Cellphones Killed the Rock Star

At the City & Colour concert at Bogart's a while back, I watched as a woman in the front row texted her way through both of the great opening acts. I glanced around and discovered that she wasn’t the only one. I figured everyone would surely stop when Dallas Green and the rest of C&C took to the stage. Three songs in and the crowd was still lit up by glowing phones.

Everywhere I looked people were texting, tweeting, facebooking or recording the night away. Often, both members of a couple would be recording the same song. As if the iPhone 12 inches to the left might just capture something different from theirs. I watched as a group of friends passed around a cell phone with a message from another friend who, I assume, wasn’t present (or maybe they were just three feet over). Meanwhile, the band played on.

This left me disappointed in humanity.

Read More

by Mike Breen 06.18.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Over the Rhine to Play Free Washington Park Concert

Renovated park gears up for early July grand opening events

Veteran, internationally-acclaimed Cincinnati band Over the Rhine will be performing a free concert on July 22 in Over-the-Rhine (the neighborhood). The group is kicking off a series of "grand opening celebration" concerts this summer at the newly renovated Washington Park, which took 18 months and $48 million to complete. All events are free and open to the public.

The first big event is Over the Rhine's July 22 concert at Washington Park's permanent stage on the new "Civic Lawn." An opening act will soon be announced.

On Aug. 3, the Park will host a rare "joint performance" by the Cincinnati Pops, May Festival, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet. The full Pops Orchestra will perform a program of Classical, Broadway and Pop tunes, joined by the May Fest Chorus, singers from the Opera and dancers from the Ballet. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

On Aug. 4, the Over-the-Rhine Community Festival returns to Washington Park. The 28-year-old fest was on hold last year while the park was under construction. The event will feature games, food, kids' events, DJs and live music (TBA). The fest runs 12-6 p.m.

Washington Park officially re-opens on July 6 at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. There will be a free "Friendship Concert" in the park later that day (5-7 p.m.), presented by the World Choir Games.

Like on Fountain Square, 3CDC is bringing a full slate of weekly musical events (as well as Saturday night movies and family-oriented fare on the weekends) to Washington Park. Full details will come with the launch of the new Washington Park website in early July. Plans so far are to have Bluegrass on Wednesdays, Jazz on Thursdays and R&B and Soul on Fridays. Check out the park on Facebook here for the latest updates.

by Amy Harris 10.11.2010
Posted In: Live Music at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Josh Kelley with Miranda Lambert in Dayton

Miranda Lambert took the stage with her pink guitars Saturday night to a packed house at Dayton's Nutter Center on her CMT Revolution Tour with her latest single “Only Prettier.” She continued to entertain the audience with her contagious energy through 20 more hits throughout the evening. Don’t let her pretty smile fool you, because the songs got more soulful as she sang ballads (“The House That Built Me” and “Dead Flowers”) and got the crowd on their feet for her gritty song about justice called “Gunpowder and Lead;” at the end of the song she held up her microphone stand shaped like a shotgun.

Read More

by Brian Baker 08.10.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music Video, Music News at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Catching Up With WEBN Album Project Alumni

Younger local musicians and the music fans who love them might find it hard to fathom, but once upon a time, Cincinnati’s corporate Rock radio juggernaut WEBN was one of local music’s biggest allies, a wild, wooly and eclectic FM outlet as open-ended and freeform as any internet radio station or podcast. In the ’70s and ’80s, before inflexible, homogenized playlists made it impossible for even major label Cincy bands like The Afghan Whigs to get spins, the annual WEBN Album Project compilations gave major exposure to local and regional artists. Saturday at the Madison Theater, the WEBN Album Project Reunion Show flashes back to that era. In this week’s CityBeat, Brian Baker caught up with one of Cincinnati’s most popular bands ever (and an early Album Project participant), The Raisins, whose seminal lineup is reuniting for Saturday’s event, joining several other AP alumni. Brian also caught up with some of the other participating musicians to discuss the Album Project’s legacy. Below are their thoughts, as well as some vintage video clips from the era.

Read More

by mbreen 03.09.2011
Posted In: Festivals, Music News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The National to Play MusicNOW

In our local music column Spill It from the CityBeat issue out today, we announced the lineup for this year’s much anticipated MusicNOW festival, which includes a closing-night headlining appearance by Cincinnati-bred Indie music stars The National on May 15.

National guitarist Bryce Dessner is the brains behind MusicNOW, which began in 2006 and has featured unique performances by some of Indie music’s biggest names, as well as up-and-comers and those on the edgier fringe of modern Classical/Chamber music. Dessner’s Avant Chamber group Clogs has played the fest in the past, but this is The National’s first time at MusicNOW.

Read More

by Dave Tobias 05.15.2009
Posted In: Live Music at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Live Review: Kings of Leon at PNC Pavilion

Opening Cincinnati's summer concert season is always a difficult duty. A constantly fickle city in terms of their live music, Cincinnati crowds demand constant excitement and stroking from the band they are witnessing. Well, then what better band to choose for this tedious task than Kings of Leon?

Read More

by Amy Harris 07.24.2013
Posted In: Live Music, Interview at 07:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Q&A with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Johnny Van Zant

Classic Southern Rockers perform at Cincinnati's Riverbend Music Center tonight

Where do you begin with a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd? Everyone has been out at a bar or a concert and heard some crazy and/or drunk lunatic shouting to the band on stage, “FREE BIRD!!!” They are the epitome of and gold standard for Southern Rock music. Even now, through the tragedy of the plane crash in 1977 to the re-formed band, Skynyrd still provides electric performances every night. They still happily rock the hits of the early days. like “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” while mixing in the music they are still releasing, most recently Last of a Dying Breed, which came out late last year. 

CityBeat had time to catch up with lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of the band’s original front man Ronnie Van Zant. The two discussed how Skynyrd fits into Rock music today, as well as the wonderful feelings the band still gets performing every night on stage. 

Skynyrd performs at Riverbend Music Center tonight with Bad Company, providing the same energy as the cast from the ’70s and showing audiences what real Southern Rock sounds like.

CityBeat: Do you have any crazy Cincinnati memories from the past?

JVZ: We have had so many good shows there. Years back, when a flood hit, there was water in the first four or five rows. People were kind of standing in the water. I was like, “Wow these are really diehards.” I don’t even know how many times we have played at that particular amphitheater (Riverbend), but it has always been a good, hot, sweaty, summer Rock & Roll show, which is how it is supposed to be.

CB: The band has had multiple lineup changes over the years since you joined the band. How do you integrate someone new into the band?

JVZ: For us, they have to be a friend, someone we have known, someone we admire as a musician, someone we think would fit into our family. When we are out on the road, running up and down the road playing shows, you have to be not only a member of a band but, especially with Lynyrd Skynyrd, you have to be a part of the Skynyrd nation. You have to be a part of the family. Our newest member is Johnny Colt, who was bass player with The Black Crowes. Colt fits right in with us. He’s loony as heck and so are we. We have a great time and love doing what we do. I hope Johnny is with us for a long, long time. He is quite the guy. It has been awesome.

CB: I know you guys have worked many times with one of my favorite guitarists, John 5. What was that experience like for you and have you done any collaborations recently?

JVZ: Well, yeah, he was on our last record, Last of a Dying Breed. John is a good friend of us. We knew we were going to be good friends with John because we were in Nashville writing and our manager mentioned John and said, “You know, he is a little different than you guys.” And we said, “ That’s OK, that’s no problem.”

John walked in, he was just coming from a photo shoot. He had on the fingernails with his hair all up. When he walked in and I went, “Damn, you are different. Damn, are you a freak or something?” And he said, “I was thinking the same crap about you guys.” We just hit it off. He is a wonderful guitar player. Not only can he play Heavy Metal and Rock & Roll, but he can play the hell out of some Country music, which we love. I just admire his work and he is one of the most phenomenal guitar players I have had the pleasure to work with.

CB: A lot of people are saying Rock is dead and Country music is the new Rock. Do you believe that Rock is dead?

JVZ: No. I think Country music is Lynyrd Skynyrd. I think a lot of the Country music is what we do, but I don’t think Rock & Roll is dead at all. People have been saying that shit for years and years and years: "Rock & Roll is dead." Then it comes back. It’s like anything else.

For us we just played Houston, Texas, in front of 10,000 people. We played Bristol, Va., I think there were 14,000 people on a Sunday night. The night before last we were in Camden, N.J., 14,000 people on a Wednesday night. I’m sure Cincinnati is doing quite well. We are in Pittsburgh tonight. It is going to be phenomenal here.

If Rock & Roll is dead and gone, man, I am missing out on it.

CB: Tell me a little bit about Last of a Dying Breed and which songs we are going to hear from that album when you come to Cincinnati?

JVZ: Well, it is debatable. What we do, each night we try to think about what new song we want to put in. Right now we are really concentrating on 40 years. It’s been 40 years since (Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) came out. It’s been our major focus to play as many songs off that record and celebrate that era.

CB: Where do you see yourself in 15 more years?

JVZ: Hopefully alive. Hopefully playing some shows and still doing this. Doing a lot of fishing and drinking a good Budweiser and something like that, I don’t know. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I never really plan too much. I just like to go along with the flow and the good Lord throws me in the direction he wants me to go. 

CB: Do you ever get tired of playing “Free Bird”? 

JVZ: Not at all. I am quick to say, "Not at all." How many bands would love to have songs like that? Most bands say we would give anything to have one of those. “Free Bird” and ("Sweet Home Alabama"), that’s the cool thing about Skynyrd. We have three generations of fans who love those songs. It is amazing to me.

We are out with Bad Company right now and we are real big Bad Company fans. We are at the top of the game with these guys. From my era and a lot of other people’s era, Bad Company was the rule of the roost when it came to Rock & Roll. Paul Rogers is one of the best singers. Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs have been around for years. It is just great to be out on the road and playing shows with good friends too. We are having a blast. We hope to do it again sometime after this tour and look forward to coming your way.

CB: Are you flattered when someone like Kid Rock uses "Sweet Home Alabama" in his songs? Excited? Upset? How do you feel when someone integrates that song?

JVZ: We were actually doing a tour with Bobby when he had “All Summer Long” (the song that incorporates "Sweet Home") out. For us, hell, it keeps us in the spotlight. He did a good job on it. It was a hit song for him and everybody got paid. So surely, we are like, “Can someone else use it again and again?”

It is kind of funny when you think of stuff like that. Who would have thought when that song was written a long, long time ago, people would still be loving it and a band from Jacksonville, Fla., and what success my brother and Alan and Gary, my hat is off to them. I love keeping the music alive. It is a great thing. It’s a great thing because the song has been used in Forrest Gump and various movies. Any time anything like that pops up as long, as it is not in bad taste, is great. It has been a good ride.

by Mike Breen 12.20.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Music News, Music Commentary at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Over the Rhine Band Co-Founder Issues Open Letter to NRA

Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine pleads with gun-rights group to change its ways

In the aftermath of last week's once unfathomable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, discussion about mental health services and gun control — thanks largely to social media — has grown to become the major topic of national discourse.

During campaign cycles, certain music fans complain loudly about artists expressing their opinions about candidates and causes, using the old "shut up and sing" line to insinuate that, as entertainers, one somehow loses the right to speak their mind.

Yet many other serious music fans understand that music and art are a reflection of our society — an artist can offer different perspectives that might help people understand some serious issue better or maybe even help them evolve their own views on particular subjects. I'm not saying we should follow artists blindly like some kind of cult. To quote Oasis, "Please don't put your life in the hands/Of a Rock & Roll band." But I for one am always eager to hear what musicians and other artists and writers I respect have to say about current affairs.

Whether within their own art or speaking out in public, artists have the same right as non-artists to express opinions. It seems that the ones with particularly large followings are the musicians attacked most often for expressing views on politics or other controversial world affairs. They fear the power an artist can have if they express an opinion divergent from their own (in much the way liberals and conservatives fear the power Fox News and MSNBC might wield).

Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have never been afraid to speak up. The married braintrust behind longtime Cincinnati-based band Over the Rhine — which has a dedicated and loving international fanbase — has seen some backlash from fans for expressing "polarizing" viewpoints. Merely supporting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry 12 years ago was enough to trigger anger amongst a few fans. The group isn't known for delving into political issues in their lyrics too often, but they have said that the song "How Long Have You Been Stoned" (
"Takin' out Daddy's trash now ain't it a drag/Trippin' on Papa's brand new body bag") from 2003's double-album Ohio was inspired by the Bush administration's rush to war in Iraq.

OTR never seemed to experience "Dixie Chicks-level" backlash (which nearly destroyed three musicians' careers); it's more similar to the recent hatred and disapproval aimed at Cincinnati natives The National, a globally successful Indie Rock band that angered some fans by campaigning for Barack Obama during the past two presidential elections. The worst (hopefully) that will ever happen in a case like that is the band might sell two or three less records and suffer insults on social media. For these artists and most like them, it's well worth the price.

Following the recent shootings in Connecticut, Detweiler took to the internet to post an open letter to the National Rifle Association. Detweiler begins the post by writing, "
I’m a songwriter, and my first calling is to process the world in the context of my songs. But I felt compelled to write the following, because it’s been on my mind. If you find it useful, please share."

What follows is the open letter from Facebook which has been shared almost 400 times and "liked" nearly 1,000 times. The 200-plus comments are actually fairly civil even when there's disagreement (OTR has a smarter-than-your-average-bear following), though they're not without a few angry and rude missives (it IS the internet after all). In the end, Detweiler has added to the dialogue about a topic that for too long has seemingly been "off the table" due to the power of the NRA and some citizens' particular interpretations of the constitution. (The NRA, at least for now, seems to be self-aware enough this time around to not come out with an insensitive statement, instead echoing the President's call for "meaningful" discussion to help avoid future tragedies like the one last Friday.)

As always, Detweiler is eloquent in his words. No matter what side of the issue you come down on, I highly recommend giving it a read. And if you feel the need to weigh in, here is the link to the original post.
AN OPEN LETTER to the four million members of the National Rifle Association:

Dear fellow citizen,

The NRA released a statement yesterday on your behalf expressing that you all are “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Yes, we all are.

For years you have willingly given your money to an organization that has largely ignored pleas from policemen across our country to limit access to assault weapons and armor piercing ammunition.

You have spent countless millions of dollars silencing and vilifying voices that, while supportive of gun ownership, were calling for moderation in the distribution of weapons that could be used for mass destruction of human life, including the gun used by Friday’s killer that shot one first grader 11 times. And 19 other first grade children. And 6 adults in the space of a few minutes…

When previous heartbroken victims of gun violence who lost children or spouses tried to speak out to hopefully help prevent others from suffering similar unspeakable loss, you rallied for your rights, and gave the suffering no quarter.

For years you have marketed the idea to the citizens of this country that the US government is a potential enemy bent on harming its own citizens, and the only way we could all be safe was if we each purchased a private arsenal of weapons.

While you are reportedly “shocked, saddened and heartbroken,” how many of your members after Friday’s shooting have changed their profile pictures to images of guns, or tweeted messages like “I’m buying a gun the day after Christmas. Join me! #NRAlifelongmember” How many of your members boasted last Friday that they were going to take their kids to a firing range?

You continue to lobby in support of all of us carrying concealed weapons into schools, day care centers, movie theaters, and public squares. You argue that if only we could all walk around packing heat, our society could be safer and more peaceful. You lobby for wider “stand your ground” laws, so we can all load up and take the law into our own hands and play judge and jury (and God?) in the heat of the moment.

The members among you who call themselves Christian often bemoan the fact that
“God has been removed from our schools” and yet those very members ignore the direct teachings of Jesus as recorded in Scripture that call upon all followers of Christ to work to break the cycle of violence and not return evil for evil.

Too many of us have stood by silently while you’ve played the part of the playground bully in our public discourse, and distorted our constitution for profit. While we as a nation have improved upon the vision of our “founding fathers” to end slavery in this country, to allow women the right to vote, and to outlaw hate crimes, you cling rigidly to a few words written when the right to bear arms referred to a single shot muzzle loading rifle.

Your voice has been powerful and strident, and too many of us have remained silent in our disbelief of what we were hearing from you. Our silence has been deadly.

If you are indeed “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” consider the part (if you are able and willing to join the rest of us in searching our souls) your organization has played when it comes to last Friday’s shooting. Consider the fear that your organization markets. Consider the bitter fruit of your labors that we must all taste.

And please consider asking forgiveness, changing your ways, and offering whatever healing you are capable of to the hurting in Newtown, Connecticut, as opposed to condoning responding to violence with still ever more violence, ad nauseum.

Unless you can do your part (along with the rest of us), and change in response to Friday’s tragedy, there will be still worse to come.

I live on a small farm in Ohio, own two guns (and my own business) and have family members who are big game hunters. I am rethinking my responsibility as a citizen of this country. We all are. I invite you to do the same.

You’re holding your big press conference tomorrow. We’ll be listening. But I am confident that many millions of us will no longer be silent.