It’s funny that The Fray are called what they’re called, because they hardly ever leave any loose threads or ragged edges — whether on their perfectly-produced, radio-friendly songs or live in concert. The piano rock band is so harmless and clean-cut that they probably couldn’t hurt a fly if their lives depended on it.
It’s no surprise, then, that their concert at PNC Pavilion Monday night, opened by Richard Swift and alt-rock band Jack’s Mannequin, felt like a quintessentially American outdoor summer party: laid-back, pleasant and totally innocuous.
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.
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 ParkOpening 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/KURT VILE/ YOUTH LAGOON/
ON AN ON/ BATHS/ MURDER BY DEATH/ BLEACHED/ SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME/ SAN FERMIN/ SECRET COLOURS/ NAT BALDWIN/ WILD CUB/
THE SHILOHS/BIRDS OF CHICAGO
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
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.
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.
We caught up with Ohio native, Eric Singer aka “CATMAN”, drummer for the infamous band, to discuss local sports and the show on Friday.CB: First question, how do you feel about Lebron leaving?
CB: Did you see the owner’s reaction?
Eric: Oh yes, I did. I am a huge NBA fan. I am on NBA.com everyday. I am actually a huge Lakers fan and even though we were on tour in Europe I did not miss any of the playoff games. The games would start at 3 am and I would watch every other day. My body clock was so out of whack. I would stay up all night watching. Everyone on the tour would ask why I looked to so tired and it was because I stayed up until 7 am watching basketball.
Eric: You are in Cincinnati. I saw that you just signed Terrell Owens.
CB: Yes we did, what do you think about that?
Eric: I think it is a great thing. Obviously, I am a Cleveland Browns fan being from Cleveland.
CB: We won’t hold that against you.
Eric: No, I have always rooted for the Bengals. My Dad had season tickets to the Browns in the 60’s and he would take me to all the games. My Dad was also a musician and he knew Paul Brown personally. I think Paul Brown coached at Ohio State so we also loved the Buckeyes so Ohio State Buckeyes are always my college team of choice.
My Dad was always a huge Bengals fan because he loved Paul Brown. Basically I root for all the AFC teams except the Ravens for obvious reasons. I cannot stand the Ravens like most Cleveland fans. I always root for the Bengals. Overall I think it was a good pickup. T.O. is a personality but at the end of the day he is a great talent and is a great receiver. The Bengals may make some noise this year. I don’t look for much from the Browns this year to do any damage. I just want them to improve over last year. They have had so many changes with management and quarterbacks. I think that it would be nice to give the people of Cleveland something to look forward to versus focusing on the Lebron situation.
CB: The sentiment here in Ohio doesn’t seem
as bad as I thought it would be about Lebron based on what I had heard
in the media.
Eric: Of course, they showed the same 2 guys on TV burning their Lebron jersey in the streets over and over. It was a slow news day. At the end of the day, it is just a game. I think it becomes an obsession with some people. I am a huge Laker fan. I stay home every night during the season and watch every game. I get upset when they lose but at the end of the day, it is just a game and they are not curing cancer. I play drums in a band and it is important to me because it is my livelihood, but at the same time I keep a reality check about what I do.
CB: It is not solving world hunger.
Eric: Exactly. Some people get too serious about it in my mind. Some people hate their 9-5 job and they have passion about a sports team or a band and that is what they look forward to doing. I understand their passion, but you have to keep it in perspective.
CB: I have talked to a lot of drummers this week. I have kind of had a week of drummers, culminating with you.
Eric: That sounds like it could have a double entendre. “I just had a week of drummers.” You gotta watch how you say that. (Laughing)
CB: What is the longest you have gone without playing the drums?
Eric: Oh I have gone awhile. Probably a few months. I am 52 years old. I have been touring every year for 26 years straight and been drumming for 42 years since I was 10. It is like a car. I have a lot of drumming miles on my body. I find that when you go away from something, it renews your interest and enjoyment in it. You enjoy it more when you come back. My whole life can’t be about drums and KISS. I am not one dimensional. You have to have other interests. As much as I know that you have to have focus because that is important if you want to have success along with hard work, sometimes you need to step away from it. It makes it feel fresh when you get away and then come back. Even though I have played some of these songs a hundred times, after I get away from it for awhile it feels fresh and lets my body heal.
CB: It is an extreme sport.
Eric: It is very much like athletics. Rock and roll drumming is different than playing in a lounge band. It is hitting hard objects and absorbing all that shock. As I have gotten older I have had to learn different ways to approach it. I have massages all the time to take care of my body and keep my body stretched out and loose because it is a necessity at this point.
CB: Do you do any weight lifting or activities to condition for it?
Eric: Sometimes. Lately to be honest I have been lazy. Usually when we are off tour, I will go to the gym and try to condition with cardio and keep my stamina up at least a few times a week. That makes it not such a shock to your body when you go back to hitting things after you have been away for awhile.
CB: Have you ever been star struck?
Eric: No, not really. When I first moved to LA in 1983, I used to go to the Beverly Hills Diner after rehearsals. This is when I first realized that I lived in LA and when you go to a Denny’s or a diner that you will see musicians and actors. The first time I was sitting there and Lionel Richie came in with Irene Cara, who had a big hit at the time. He said hello just like you were a normal person. That kind of set a precedence for me with a guy who was a huge star at the time on MTV and making hits and he is just a regular guy who comes in here and says hi to me. I always remembered that whatever you do may be special or unique, but it does not make you better than someone else. I remember him and think it was a good attitude.
CB: That is a good attitude.
Eric: I am a big fan of many bands and I met Jimmy Page this year in London. That was kind of cool because I had never met anyone from Zeppelin, but I am around these guys all the time. I have played in some big bands KISS and with Queen. I played a Nelson Mandela benefit with Bono and Annie Lennox a few years ago. I have gotten to play with people and meet them this way. I met Dwyane Wade the other night on Jay Leno and that was cool because I am such a big NBA fan. I like to meet people that I have a lot of respect for and admire what they do. I don’t get star struck because I have been doing this a long time and realize at the end of the day they are just people.
CB: They go home and put their pants on one leg at a time.
Eric: Exactly, one thing I have learned that once you really get to know people you find that there is a common thread that runs through all of us.
CB: I interview people and have found that the big
bands like yourself are the most down to earth and normal. Many of the
newer bands that are just starting out seem so arrogant at times and it
bothers me and I always think that won’t work and they are not going to
make it like that.
Eric: You are right and that is a great observation. That is what I find as well. Usually people who are doing it at a bigger level, they don’t act like that. I don’t know if it is a confidence or mindset but they don’t need to do that. I live in LA and there a lot of people who are posers. They go to clubs and dress the part and think they are important. They go out every night and dress up and locals think they are in the band, but they are big fish in a small pond and they are not the real players. You are right, the people that have more fame act normal and don’t need to pretend to be anything and they are usually more cool.
CB: What can we expect from the show on Friday?
Eric: “The Hottest Show on Earth” is great. The one thing I always admire about our band is that we are always trying to improve and make it bigger and better. We are always trying to make a bigger visual spectacle. That is what we are known for and putting on a big show. I always say it is like Rock-n-Roll meets the circus. It is about being entertainers and being entertained. Anyone who saw the tour last year, we have changed the songs around and changed some of the visual things in the show. It is probably the biggest show that we have ever done with visual and screens and pyro. It is a big undertaking to take this tour around the country. There are 15 or 17 trucks that move this stuff around. A few of them have our faces on the side with the new Dr. Pepper adds, so you may see 5 or 6 of them rolling down the road in Ohio this week so you will know it is KISS on tour. I am not saying this because I am biased and in the band, but everyone must see a KISS show in their life.
Eric: We are playing Riverbend on Friday right?
Eric: I remember Riverbend. We have played there before and I actually went to a concert there before. I was on a tour in 1987 with Gary Moore and we saw Huey Lewis in the News there. They were huge at the time.
CB: I actually saw them this past weekend at HullabaLOU in Louisville.
Eric: Really, one of my good friends is their guitar player, how were they?
CB: They were amazing actually and sounded the
same. It was surreal to see bands ranging from Bon Jovi to Al Green all
in one place.
Eric: Did you see Al Green?
CB: Yes I did and he was FANTASTIC! He made me smile!
Eric: I went to see him a few years ago with Gene after we played a show in a casino on a night off. Al Green sings amazing. Gene is a huge 50’s doo wop fan and so we went to the show.
CB: He was spot on and blew my mind.
Eric: Did all the ladies come up and give him flowers?
CB: No he had bundles of roses he was passing out.
Eric: A lot of the older women still love him. He is old school and a real swooner, but he sings his ass off.
CB: I have had a phenomenal week of music and I am hoping to top it off with KISS on Friday.
Eric: You are right it is like a Cherry on Top after all that great music this week. It is great music on top of a great show. You must go see it and be converted and see it in the flesh. You will be converted to Kisstianity. There is no band like KISS and it is a dream come true to be in the band since I was a huge fan from the beginning. I was a fan from day 1 and saw them in Cleveland in 1974 when they opened up for the New York Dolls.
CB: It is like a religion.
Eric: The kind of drummer that I always want to be was to be a visual and show type drummer and I can do it all in KISS. I couldn’t be in a more perfect band.
CB: I hope to get religion on Friday.
Eric: You have to.
CB: Before we wrap up, tell me about the Wounded Warrior Care project that you are supporting.
Eric: It is the Wounded Warrior CARE project. We have gone to visit the soldiers in their facility. A dollar from every ticket sold goes to this project. Those people have gone and sacrificed their life. Regardless of people’s political views, these people go and do this on a volunteer basis to protect our rights. They have given their life so we have to make sure that there are people when they get home to help them get their life back and that is what this project is all about. You may disapprove of war, but you need to respect these people regardless of your views. You are able to say whatever you want in this country because these people go out and fight for your rights. We want to help them be able to get their lives back.
Eric: I also need to say KISS is a great family value this summer. Kids under 14 get in free on the lawn with the purchase of an adult lawn ticket. Up to four children per valid adult (21 and over) lawn ticket. Valid for Live Nation amphitheatres with lawns only. These also must be purchased on the day of the show and are subject to availability.
We know that times are tough for some people economically and we know there is no better way to get their mind off their troubles than to go and see a band like KISS. It is our way of trying to give something back to those who have supported us over the years. Everyone needs to see KISS at some point in their life.
CB: You may as well start early as a kid right?
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.
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?