CityBeat Blogs - Music http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-35.html <![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: July]]>

Everyone gets hooked on a handful of songs they can’t seem to skip over during a period of time. Well, these are mine from the month of July.

“Crystals” – Of Monsters and Men

This song kicks complete butt. The heavy drum intro leads into the crashing of symbol waves throughout the entire track, while lead singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir’s voice carries the powerful lyrics along the melody. This entire album is unique to their previous style, developing lyrics on a more honest and open level. Seriously, listen for yourself.

“Red Eyes” – The War On Drugs

This retro Indie Rock band from Philly wraps their beat around modern-meets-’80s music, especially their on this, their most popular jam. The impeccable beat is bob-your-head worthy, in addition to the powerful voice of the longhaired lead singer Adam Granduciel. Such a cool dude.

If you’re taking a long drive through the night with flickering highway lights passing your cracked windows and a chill in the air blowing through ever so slightly, you’ll easily feel like you’re racing back through time. It rocks so hard you’ll find it hard to skip.

“Soul Is Fire” – Elliot Root

I dare you to play this at your desk and try not to tap your foot (I tried, and it’s pretty impossible).  Scott Krueger’s upbeat and unique voice is enough to turn any song into a party, especially this particular jam. It’s catchy, it builds and it’s just plain fun. Elliot Root got their own roots in the heart of Nashville, Tenn., but they’re not what you’d expect from the South. Give them a listen and dance around with your shoes off. It won’t be hard.

“Delilah” – Florence + The Machine

Delilah” is one of Florence + The Machine’s many singles sung by the beyond-badass Florence Welch and those incredible pipes of hers. This single, and two others that were released prior, are now featured on their latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The entire album just continues to follow up with Welch’s tough-as-nails attitude and lyrics, giving women the sense of ability and power they should all possess. Not to mention it makes you want to dance.

“Wolves” – Phosphorescent

We all remember 2013’s “Song for Zula,” right? Turns out Phosphorescent has other hidden gems, and I choose to listen to this gentle tune before I close my eyes for the night. It’s simple, genuine and repetitive in a way that doesn’t feel that way. The unique use of a ukulele as a long introduction pieced together with a soft, electric guitar and the thick sounds of an accordion subtly enter into the center of the song. Matthew Houck’s sad and sincere voice has that “cabin in the woods” vibe to it, similar to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s overall a beautiful piece, even if it took me this long to discover it.


]]>
<![CDATA[Growing Up with Bogart’s]]>

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.



]]>
<![CDATA[‘American Originals’ Pops Concert Recording Due in September]]>

Back in January at Music Hall, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Morris Russell, presented its unique “American Originals” concerts. During the performances, the orchestra collaborated with several local and national Folk/Americana artists to perform and celebrate the music of Stephen Foster and other early songs that are the foundation of the “Great American Songbook.” 

Read CityBeat’s cover story on the project here.


Rosanne Cash, Aoife O’Donovan (who recently returned to join the Pops for its Fourth of July concert at Riverbend; read our interview with her here), Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Joe Henry joined Cincinnati area artists Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and others to perform specially arranged versions of Foster compositions like “O! Susannah,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” as well as traditional numbers like “Red River Valley,” “Kumbaya” and “Amazing Grace.” 


A live recording of the concert featuring 17 songs will be released on Friday, Sept. 11. (You can pre-order it now here from Amazon.)


Here is the detailed track listing for the American Originals release (via cincinnatisymphony.org):


1) “O’ Susannah” (written by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and with Joe Henry on vocals)


2) “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” (written by Foster, arranged by Rob Mounsey and with Aoife O’Donovan and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine on vocals)


3) “My Old Kentucky Home” (written by Stephen Foster, arranged by Rebecca Pellett and featuring Rosanne Cash on vocals)


4) “Amazing Grace” (traditional, arranged by Pellett and featuring Aoife O’Donovan and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)


5) “Rolling River: Sketches On Shenandoah” (composed by Peter Boyer) 


6) “Why, No One To Love?” (written by Foster, arranged by Pellett and featuring Over the Rhine’s Bergquist on vocals and her OTR partner Linford Detweiler on Rhodes keyboard)


7) “Old Folks At Home” (by Foster, arranged by Timothy Berens and featuring Dom Flemons on vocals and harmonica, Timothy Berens on banjo and Paul Patterson on fiddle)


8) “Kumbaya” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring Timothy Lees, Kathryn Woolley, Gabriel Pegis and Scott Mozlin on violins and Richard Jensen on djembe


9) “Slumber My Darling” (by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and featuring O’Donovan on vocals and guitar)


10) “Aura Lee” (by Foster, arranged by Pellett and with Henry and Ed Cunningham on vocals)


11) “Foster's Folly” (by Foster, arranged by Berens)


12) “Ring, Ring The Banjo” (by Foster, arranged by Walden and featuring Flemons on banjo and bones
 and Cunningham on fiddle)


13) “Red River Valley” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)


14) “The Battle Cry Of Freedom” (composed by George Frederick Root and arranged by Berens)


15) “Beautiful Dreamer” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey with Cash on vocals)


16) “Hard Times Come Again No More” (by Foster, arranged by Berens and featuring Over the Rhine, with Bergquist on vocals and Detweiler on guitar)


17) “Camptown Races” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, as well as Cash, Flemons, Henry, O’Donovan and Over the Rhine on vocals)





]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: Road Trippin']]>

Anyone with an adventurous bone in their body naturally loves road trips. It’s the quickest way to embrace your passion for exploration by simply hopping into your vehicle and hitting the road filled with destinations and opportunities. And what’s the ultimate source of entertainment during your long trip? Music.

I took a different approach while selecting these particular artists/songs. Playlists don’t always have a major theme to them. It’s not always necessary, and road trips are the best time for these types (or non-types) of soundtracks. As quickly as the double yellow line flickers along the street below, sometimes, so does your mood. There’s the beginning and the end of the drive when you’re nothing less than sitting out of the edge of your seat, the mid-drive mood when you need a bit of a change-up, and the nighttime (my absolute favorite part) when you’re chugging your gas station coffee, munching on beef jerky and letting the jams take you away — father than your car ever will.

This playlist meets all these moments in a road trip. Just by looking at it, it’s like I reached my hand into a pot full of weirdness and grabbed whatever I could. In reality, I selected these babies for a reason.

There were a ton of artists I considered putting on here. Candidates included Mumford & Sons, Hozier, John Mayer, and those other mainstream, super-duper talented artists we already love. Instead of giving you something you already know, I wanted to introduce you guys to some folks that may be potentially new to your music library. There’s no better time to indulge yourself in new music than driving in a car for hours, watching your view from the window change in the blink of an eye.

It’s totally OK to have it all. Ya dig? Now grab your keys and get going.

]]>
<![CDATA[MidPoint Music Festival Announces More Artists]]>

The MidPoint Music Festival today announced a third wave of artists scheduled to perform at the 14th annual event this fall.

Locals Heartless Bastards will headline Friday night's shows at the Christian Moerlein stage, touring in support of their new album, Restless One. The band will join Purity Ring and Matthew E. White on Friday night's schedule, with Saturday performers including Ride and Sylvan Esso. Iron & Wine and Tune Yards highlight Sunday's slate. 

MidPoint, which is owned and operated by CityBeat, is scheduled for Sept. 25-27 and once again will take place in and around Over-the-Rhine. The full schedule will be released in the coming weeks.

The festival expects a total of around 125 total artists to perform. So far, the following have been confirmed: Heartless Bastards, Nick Diamonds, Good Graeff, Heat, Nick D' & the Believers, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Ona, The Eagle Rock Gospel Choir, Alanna Royale, Sphynx, Charles Walker Band, EZTV, Miracles of Modern Science, Bailiff, The Ghost Wolves, Wild Ones, Big Scary, Mothers, Xoe Wise, Turbo Fruits, Young Empires, Grandchildren, Forest and The Evergreens, Great Peacock, Kinky Love, Elk Creek, Ancient Warfare, What Moon Things, Bones Jugs N Harmony, Little Racer, GGOOLLDD, No/No, Kid Runner, Chrome Pony, Dirty Fences, Rose Quartz, Jackson Scott, Eclipse Movement, MULTIMAGIC, Sweet & the Sweet Sweets, Dawg Yawp, Gran Bel Fisher, Automagik, Coconut Milk, Jane Decker, Orchards, Kate Wakefield, Little Lights, DAAP Girls, The Yugos, Marcus Alan Ward, The Harlequins, yler Childers & the Food Stamps, Young Heirlooms, Us, Today, Public, Holiday Mountain, The Almighty Get Down, Noah Smith, Leggy.

Weekend passes will be available at a discount rate ($10 off) at the MidPoint Indie Summer concert at Fountain Square this Friday. Saint Motel, The Modern Novas, Grenades!? and Jane Decker will perform. More artists will be announced in the coming weeks. More info: mpmf.com.


]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: America!]]>

There’s a lot to celebrate this year, folks. After Supreme Court officially legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the feeling of freedom is especially felt in the LGBTQ community and the rest of those filled with joy for all the love in this ever-changing country. On June 25, history was made. And as July 4 approaches, it’s only acceptable to get a little crazy. We wouldn’t be Americans if we didn’t.

Whatever your plans are, you can’t forget your Fourth of July essentials: fireworks, beer, picnic grub and music. GOOD music. Although our speakers will mostly be filled with the classics by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty (nothing wrong with that), this doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the contemporary jams we love so much for one day.

Check out and hang out to this modern, Mellencamp-free playlist for your day of kicking back and celebrating all the perks of being a damn proud American.

My Morning Jacket

My favorite band of all time. Be sure to avoid their album Circuital, though. (Too deep/spacey for the Fourth). I went with anything from Z, It Still Moves and Evil Urges, where their experimentation outside of their Rock-meets-Country roots stays at a minimum.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

The collaboration between these two artists seems to work in the best way possible, especially because it perks our buddy Ryan Adams up a bit. Still following through with his Alternative Country vibes, Adams’ voice we all know and love is given a more upbeat tempo to jam along to while you drink your beer in the grass.

Trampled by Turtles

Bluegrass and Folk with a crazy-ass banjo blended with that old violin sound. If Old Crow Medicine Show and Avett Brothers had a baby, this is it. They can go fast, they can go slow. Whatever your preference, it’s all Folk all the time.

Spoon

As many films as “The Underdog” has been featured in, I still imagine it working in a Sandlot soundtrack. Doesn’t exist, but I can’t help but envision Smalls hitting that Babe Ruth ball when it comes on. If you can wrap your brain around that the same way I do, you’d understand why the rest of Spoon had to be on this playlist. Play ball!

Fleet Foxes

These guys immediately make me want to take off my shoes, run through the grass and jump into a creek. That’s why I can only listen to them in the summer. (Kidding, but you get the idea.) Their Folky, earthy tunes are ideal for the Fourth. Hopefully you’re near a creek!

The Flaming Lips

Ridiculously weird with the best intentions. This holiday can get weird, so embrace it and throw these guys on there. Less Folky than the other stuff, but it still works. I promise.  

NEEDTOBREATHE

People totally underestimate these guys. I saw them live last summer, dancing around stage in their fedoras and denim flannels like the happiest people on the fucking planet. Singing songs about their hometown in South Carolina and this sweet, sweet country we live it — how could you not put these songs on your list? 

Have a great weekend, folks. ‘MURICA.

]]>
<![CDATA[Summer Music Fests in the Great Indoors]]>

When you think summer music festivals, you probably think about things like high-powered sunscreen, hydration and the chance that you might get drenched if a storm rolls through. But this weekend in Greater Cincinnati, there are three festival that spotlight our great music scene, and you won’t need an umbrella, SPF 500 or $8 bottles of water for any of them. (Two of them feature “patio stages” that are outside, but schedules will be adjusted if harsh weather strikes.) Click on the artists' names for more on each of the acts.

Stanley’s Reggae Fest returns for its fifth year to Stanley’s Pub Saturday, showcasing some perfect summertime music with vendors, Jamaican food (from Ena's Jerkmania) and an outdoor patio stage (weather permitting; see above). 


Cincinnati faves The Cliftones head up the lineup, which also features fellow locals Know Prisoners, Nashville, Tenn.’s Roots of a Rebellion and Columbus, Ohio Reggae/Rap/Rock crew Shrub. 


Music starts at 6 p.m. Get a ticket today for $12 here, or pay $15 at the door. 


• The eclectic Folk/Americana scene in Greater Cincinnati is one of local music’s most thriving, and Saturday at Newport, Ky.’s Southgate House Revival, you’ll be able to catch some of its guiding lights (as well as a few touring acts). The inaugural Cincy Folk Festival is being presented by the local music website cincygroove.com and proceeds benefit local Northern Kentucky radio station WNKU. 


The fest will utilize all three stages at the Southgate. Tickets $20 (get yours in advance here). There are also VIP tickets available for $30 (VIPs will be treated to catered food and music from The Young Heirlooms and Honey and Houston at 5 p.m.).


Here is the full schedule (visit cincyfolkfestival.com for updates and full info). 

Sanctuary stage

7:30 p.m. Bulletville

8:30 p.m. David Gans

9:30 p.m. Kim Taylor

10:30 p.m. AJ Ghent Band

12 a.m. Chicago Farmer


Revival Room

8 p.m.Daniel Wayne and The Silver Lines

9 p.m. Mamadrones

10 p.m. Hickory Robot

11:15 p.m. Souse

12:30 a.m. Gabbard Brothers


Lounge stage

8 p.m. Carole Walker

9 p.m. Tracy Walker

10 p.m. Ma Crow & The Lady Slippers

11 p.m. My Brother The Bear

12:30 a.m. Wilder


• Tonight and tomorrow (Friday/Saturday), the Northside Tavern hosts the return of the Northside Music Festival on three stages, including one on its outdoor patio. The fest, now in its eighth year, features some of the city’s finest Indie and Rock acts of various shades and styles. And it’s all FREE. Visit the NMF’s Facebook event page here for the “in case of rain” schedule.


FRIDAY LINEUP

Back Room stage 

10:45 p.m. Skeleton Hands

11:45 p.m. Artisan

12:45 a.m. Dream Tiger


Front Bar stage

10 p.m. Smut

11 p.m. Everyday Objects


Patio stage

7:30 p.m. The Slippery Lips

9 p.m. Subsets

10:30 p.m. Tweens


SATURDAY LINEUP

Back Room stage 

10:45 p.m. The Harlequins

11:45 p.m. Temple

12:45 a.m. Soledad Brothers


Front Bar stage

10 p.m. New Strange

11 p.m. The Sundresses


Patio stage

7:30 p.m. Leggy

9 p.m. The Tigerlilies 

10:30 p.m. Fairmount Girls

]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: Rainy Day Tunes]]>

Since the forecast for this upcoming weekend screams “absolutely sucky,” instead of fighting it, go ahead and embrace the rain. Whether you’re allowing yourself some “me” time to sink into your own thoughts or are keeping your favorite human close to your side, slide your ass back into bed, pour yourself some tea and put on these slower, deeper jams, old and new. (You know, when you’re done binging on Netflix). 

"Think of England" – Bear’s Den

“Do you lie back and think of England?” Maybe, maybe not. But the concept is there. Whether it’s a place or a person from your past, this song is dedicated to a memory that questions if it’s been forgotten or not. Many of us experience this “letting go of the past” feeling in our lives, and Indie Folk trio Bear’s Den’s does it well through such heartfelt poetry.

"Holocene" – Bon Iver

The immediate peace behind Justin Vernon’s voice paired with the tranquil melody that takes you out of this world and beyond is enough. It’s just enough. As much of Bon Iver’s music is based off of a pain or time of love and loss, this particular song is wrapped around the beauty given by earth and embracing the parts of life that are greater than you’ll ever be. (Little tip: I recommend watching the video. Absolutely worth it).

"Love You" – For Against

The wonderful thing about instrumentals is that they can be interpreted any way you like and let them take you wherever you want to go. It’s pretty awesome. It causes listeners to get more caught up in the title rather than the assigned lyrics, leaving an open canvas for their most creative thoughts to tell a story. For Against uses distinct rhythms and their Post-Punk/Dream Pop sound to allow you to capture a story throughout each of their tracks.

"Come Back to Bed" – John Mayer

If I’m being honest, in my wildest dreams, if John Mayer told me to come back to bed I’m sure as hell going to do it. Whether you’re embracing the emptiness or wishing your person were by your side, this song is a calling to bring you back into your sheets and leaving the bad things behind. John is a major necessity to any rainy day soundtrack, and this particular track is a strong winner.

"Jolene" – Ray Lamontagne

I don’t care who you are or what genre you prefer, everyone admires this beaut. Ray Lamontagne’s rough-meets-earthy voice is exactly what anyone needs on the slowest of days. It’s sad, yes, but a wise man once told me, “The sad ones cause you to feel the most.” Sometimes we need that, especially while the dreary rain pours outside our windows. And Ray is the king of that.

"Song For Zula" – Ronnie Fauss

This acoustic remake is simply remarkable. I first heard it in one of my music-loving friend’s cars, driving home late from a Hozier concert, and I was hooked. I wanted to crawl under the sheets and sleep the weekend off, drifting away to this sweet lullaby dedicated to a lover. If you enjoy the original, this version will tug just as strongly at your heartstrings.

"Dye" – Tycho

Another instrumental, another story. This one with a more Techno-feel and a beat you’ll feel. It reminds me of a club at 2 a.m. in complete slow motion. Weird, I know. But like I said, it’s all about where your creative mind takes you. This artist especially is creative and unique enough in itself to get the ball rolling in your mind. So while you’re lying there watching the day pass by, let your thoughts drift to this song, this artist, and this album.

"More Streets" – zpiderflower

This instrumental is a bit darker feeling than the rest with its deep, electric strings flicking one after the other and its low and steady beat remaining consistent throughout the entire track. This song was made for sleep. It was made to hide out from the nasty weather while still accepting it’s among you. These guys aren’t likely to come across often, so grab on and give them a chance while it’s still raining outside. You’ll grow for them more now than ever.

"Georgia" – Vance Joy

I LOVE this song. I love the verses more than the actual chorus, and that’s totally OK with me. It’s sweet and pretty and talks of love in such an elegant way. Vance Joy describes a woman as electric and strong, with a weight of love that’s worth it all. Sure, we all are familiar with Joy’s ever-so-popular song "Riptide," but in reality his other work is equally as incredible. You can’t help but think of the person you love most when you hear this tune.

"Comrade" – Volcano Choir

You bet your ass I put Justin Vernon on twice. As used as this phrase is, I can’t help but best describe Volcano Choir as Bon Iver “on steroids.” Its electric twist is strong, loud and powerful, while keeping its simplistic/natural style and sounds in the works. The entire Repave album is worth giving a listen, however, if you’re adding to a mellow playlist, I pick "Comrade."

]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: The War On Drugs, <i>Lost in the Dream</i>]]>

On Wednesday, June 10, The War On Drugs performed live at the Madison Theatre in Covington, Ky. They slowly becoming one of my favorite artists in just a few short months, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch these guys while they were in town, just minutes from my city.

This American Indie Rock band from Philly began back in 2003 after Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel met at a party. (Alcohol really does bring people together for more than just a one-night stand). Finally calling themselves The War On Drugs in 2005, the rest became history.

The disparate crowd in the Madison Theatre grew silent as Vile stepped onto the stage of smoke with his back turned away from us. The intro music patiently slipped through the fingers of the players, giving the crowd enough time to psych themselves up before Vile slowly circled, sending his voice through the microphone. I’d like to think goosebumps were contagious in that moment.  

The show kicked off with “Burning” from their album Lost in the Dream, an album that needed and deserved an entire concert time. They dove into each song random and out of order, just the way concerts should be. They even chose to throw their most popular track “Red Eyes” into the middle of the show — something we as music-lovers are unfamiliar with, subconsciously expecting the ordinary concept of “saving the best for last” (or in some cases, the most popular). Instead, it kept the crowd on their toes. It kept us wondering … what’s next?

My personal favorite didn’t come on until sixth to last. Waiting for “In Reverse” kept my anticipation high throughout the entire show, leaving me thoughtless and speechless and I swayed and felt more than what can be felt from listening through ear-buds.

The overall energy of the room was exactly what you’d expect it to be. The drifting rhythms and synthesized sounds of the acoustics was enough to send anyone into a parallel universe — a place I found myself throughout the show as I clung tightly to my beer with one hand and my friend’s arm with the other. "Lost in the Dream" truly says it all.

Vire’s communication with the audience was scarce, but with such strong lyrics that symbolize love, isolation and depression, it became more about speaking through the music. Instead of having to explain why a particular song was written or what is was about, it is left up to the listener to decide. It was all about interpretation.

A handful of songs from various other albums were chosen and thrown in the very beginning, as well as the encore before closing out with “Suffering,” also from Lost in the Dream. It was a slow closer (also uncommon) as if it was meant to easily transition people back down from concert to reality.

As a surprise during the encore of the show, we were treated to The National drummer Bryan Devendorf stepping in and taking over. It’s safe to say the crowd went a little nuts in the best way possible.

Every inch of the album Lost in the Dream was just as beautiful live as it is right from your Spotify playlist. Whether you’re taking a drive far out in the distance or spending an hour on your bedroom floor with your feet up on the wall, this is the background sound you’re looking for. You’ll be back for seconds — I promise. 


]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: Rehearsal Dinner]]>

Wedding season has officially arrived, and that means parties, dinners, showers and more parties. Yikes! It’s the perfect blend between terrifying and awesome.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to host a dear friend’s rehearsal dinner at a creative space called The Living Room. The bride and groom are in their early 20s, so the theme we chose was more of a modern, rustic feel, decorated with a collection of various plants, aged white windowpanes, flowers in vintage beer bottles and a handmade chalk drawing of the Cincinnati skyline across the blackboard wall in the café.

I created a playlist for the occasion that would fit both their personalities and the central theme of the dinner, avoiding the expected Whitney Houston or Michael Bolton tracks. This soundtrack consists of Indie, Folk and Alternative music old and new that almost everyone in the wedding party would recognize as they poured through the speakers. Hearing them sing along as they picked at the hors d'oeuvres was just the icing on the cake. (Well, the cake didn’t come until after dinner). 

Check it out and see if these (not overly-cheesy) love songs will fit well in your upcoming rehearsal dinner playlist!

“Sweet Disposition” – Temper Trap

This song is strong and delicate altogether. “…A dream, a laugh, a kiss, a cry,” are all pieces of love and what we feel when we’re in it. The rapid, spacey beat is not only gorgeous, but the lyrics are no less than short and powerful. 

“Mess Is Mine” – Vance Joy

What’s mine is yours — for better and for worse. It’s the concept that when you’re with someone, they are a part of you. Their problems become your problems, and this upbeat, warm song with an honest message truly says it best.

“Grow Old With Me” – Tom Odell

This song is so stinkin’ sweet. It’s heartwarming, dreaming about a future with the one you love the most.  Starting slow and fading into a quick tempo, Odell’s voice gradually expresses how intense it is to feel this way toward someone for the rest of your life. Oh, and how wonderful it is.

Ends of the Earth” – Lord Huron

When you’re in a car, driving off into the unknown with your favorite human by your side holding your hand so lightly, this is the song you want to have playing. “To the ends of the earth, would you follow me?” If marriage is an adventure, would you?

“Ho Hey” – The Lumineers

This lovely little song (already known by most) is the simplest way of saying you and your “sweetheart” belong together. It’s catchy, it’s happy and it’s even a sweet song to dance along to. The clapping alongside the rustic instruments will be enough to you get you on your feet with your partner, spinning around and loving how much you love them.

She (For Liz)” – Parachute

I had to throw this song on here simply because the name of the bride is — you guessed it — Elizabeth. It’s that “she, she, she, story-of-a-girl” song that describes the uniqueness of one woman that makes a man love her over anyone else. Although Parachute doesn’t exactly say the name “Liz”, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Budapest” – George Ezra

This semi-recent song by George Ezra (whose baby face does NOT match his soothingly-deep voice) describes the passion one human has for another, so strong they would leave even the greatest things in their life. Those materialistic things have no place over that person.

“XO” – John Mayer

Almost any John Mayer on your rehearsal dinner playlist is pretty much a necessity, considering the guy’s voice practically has love embedded in it. Recreating an acoustic cover of Beyoncé’s single ‘XO’, Mayer easily gives an already beautifully written song a slower, more soothing twist for listeners looking to feed their love-struck minds. 

“Like Real People Do” – Hozier

This one is a bit different. My interpretation is that the past is in the past — and however scary the future is, they should let it be. When you’re in love with someone so deeply, sometimes it’s easier to put the pain of the past away and focus on the beauty of what’s to come. Hozier did a heavenly job of putting it, pairing it with its light and angelic melody.

“Home” – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

“Home is wherever I’m with you.” YES. We love this one because that Southern-Folk sound and those sweeter-than-apple-pie lyrics can make a person feel so freaking giddy inside. It’s meant to make you feel like you really are home anywhere you go, but the reality is, it’s because of whose by your side.


]]>
<![CDATA[MidPoint Music Fest Announces More Bookings]]> The second round of acts booked for this year's MidPoint Music Festival have been announced. The popular Indie Folk fave Iron & Wine heads up the announcement, adding to a lineup that includes previous-released names like Purity Ring, Ride and Sylvan Esso.

Here is the full list of artists announced so far:

Aero Flynn

All Them Witches
American Wrestlers
Beach Slang

Betty Who

Bully

Caspian

Cathedrals
Diet Cig

The Donkeys

Howard
Huntertones

Iron & Wine

K.Flay

Low Cut Connie
Lydia Loveless
Matthew E. White
Mikhael Paskalev
Mild High Club

Moon Duo

NE-HI

Patrick Watson
Pokey LaFarge

Pure Bathing Culture
Purity Ring

Ride

Ryley Walker

Sarah Jaffe

Strand Of Oaks
Sylvan Esso


Truly

tUnE-yArDs

Vinyl Williams

White Reaper
Yumi Zouma

Zola Jesus

The 2015 MidPoint Music Festival returns to venues around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 25-27 (the festival is now running Friday through Sunday, instead of Thursday through Saturday). The first-round weekend passes for $69 have sold out, but if you attend this Friday's MidPoint Indie Summer show on Fountain Square (featuring Kopecky, Broncho, Coconut Milk and Near Earth Objects) you can still purchase them at that price. Otherwise, weekend passes are now $79. (Prices increase again after Labor Day.)

Visit mpmf.com for the latest info and ticket links.
]]>
<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: Bunbury Music Festival ]]>

It’s music festival time, folks. That barefoot-in-the-grass, sun-on-your-skin, and live-music-filling-your-bones kind of season has arrived, and this weekend our very own city is welcoming music lovers everywhere to Bunbury Music Festival.

Here are a handful of my personal favorite jams from selected artists who will be performing this weekend:

The Black Keys – Weight of Love

It’s safe to say the Black Keys are easily loved at music festivals, considering I felt that very energy on the Gulf Shores, Ala., just last summer at Hangout Fest. Plus, being up on your 6-foot-4 friend’s shoulders to see it is about as “high” as you can get. The Black Key’s latest single release, “Weight of Love,” includes the same sound, slowed down, heavy on the instrumentals. Lead singer Dan Auerbach kills it (as always) and the spacey opener/closer matches the genius lyrics inside the body of it all.

Tame Impala – Let It Happen

I first heard this fairly recent song in a cramped, poorly lit airport in Havana, Cuba, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. Tame Impala is that weird band you can’t help but love, with their psychedelic hypno-groove melodic Rock genre (can you say a mouthful?) and their modern-day resemblance to the Beatles. “Let It Happen” came out as a single in March, and its trippy and playful vibes truly make you want to get on your feet and dance around. Nothing more, nothing less.

Matt and Kim – Get It

This Indie dance duo can brighten any music lover's day with their upbeat, bouncy rhythms with lyrics sung by not only Matt and Kim themselves, but a crowd of party-animals to push for a bumpin’ weekend, and you can bet your ass they’ll be counting on the Bunbury crowd to join in on the movement. Now go “get it’” and dance no-hands-on-the-wheel style until it’s time to jam out with them live at Bunbury.

Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

Father John Misty a.k.a J. Tillman’s sad but hauntingly beautiful outlook on love and life is confidently expressed through his unique blend of Indie, Folk, and Psychedelic Rock, with lyrics open to various interpretations, depending on who’s listening. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and the rest of his previously debuted album stands out a bit from the rest of Tillman’s previous work. Seriously, just watch the video starring our girl April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) from Parks and Recreation, whose already dark character fits the scene beyond perfectly. It’s a confusing, marvelous piece of work, and Tillman will likely perform it just as beautifully (maybe slightly frightening) live.

Catfish & The Bottlemen – Pacifier

This “no fucks given” Welsh rock band from Wales might just be enough to get everyone in the Bunbury crowd to kick off their shoes and dance in the grass like crazy people. But that’s how music festivals should be, right? “Pacifier” is the perfect example of this kind of jam — the stuck-in-your-head, can’t-help-but-move-around song. And if you have any experience on the air drums, they might just become your new favorite.

Jamestown Revival – California (Cast Iron Soul)

Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance aren’t just a well-harmonized duo, but childhood friends, making for an even better band. The Country-Folk stylings of Jamestown Revival is easy on the ears, with their honest debut album recorded straight out of a cabin deep in the woods of Utah. It’s safe to say that what you hear is what you get, and “California (Cast Iron Soul)” is the epitome of not only the genre, but the lyrics that have the ability to bring listeners back to the authenticity of their roots.


Bunbury Music Festival takes place Friday-Sunday at Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown. More info: bunburyfestival.com.

]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Marina and the Diamonds at Bogart's]]>

There were diamonds everywhere at Bogart’s this past Friday (May 29), about 1,500 of them. Marina and the Diamonds is not a band, but the artistic umbrella for Welsh singer/songwriter Marina Diamandis. She says she created the solo-guise “band” moniker because she didn’t want to be seen as a solo Pop star, and wanted to “involve people” with a name that didn't make anyone feel excluded. So, you see, we are all diamonds. Most of the diamonds at her Cincinnati show were teenage to college-age girls with a smattering of parents in tow. Many had travelled a few hours to see their hero. It was a sadly homogenous audience, given the scope and talent of Diamandis and her three-album catalog, but an enthusiastic lot nonetheless.

Her set started with “Bubblegum Bitch,” the power cut from her second album Electra Heart, and from there the party never stopped. The latest single, “Forget,” followed before she and her touring backing band launched into “Mowgli’s Road.” After that trio of songs, Diamandis chatted with the crowd telling them how happy she was to finally make it to Cincinnati. Though she was preaching to the converted, Diamandis proved to be no-less charming and engaging.

“I am Not a Robot,” a U.K. Top 40 hit from 2010, followed and, as with the entire set, Diamandis’ voice soared effortlessly as she glided across the stage. About half way through, an additional keyboard was brought on stage. Diamandis proceeded to take a seat at it and play “Happy,” whilst her backing Diamonds looked on. It was a nice respite before the title track from her current album, Froot.

While every song received a loud cheer, it was the two biggest hits that really got the diamonds in attendance particularly fired up. “Hollywood” (a No. 12 hit in the U.K.) was her breakthrough single in the in 2010 and is based on her observations of the U.S. “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America,” she sings, though it’s not meant to be a criticism. (“It was written way before I got signed," she told me in an interview a few years ago. "It's funny because I wouldn't describe my relationship with America as love or hate. Anything that has an element of illusion naturally fascinates people. I absolutely love America.”) Live, the song was keyboarded-up nicely, though the album version echoes the synth sound of the ’80s effectively. Her guitar player strummed an acoustic guitar, providing a nice counterbalance.

“Primadonna,” her other big single came next, and it too had a brighter and livelier sound on stage, sounding a little like an EDM track in spots, but not too heavily. Sadly, “Teen Idle,” a stand-out track from Electra Heart was left off the set list. “How to be a Heartbreaker,” finished the encore-less set, but the crowd seemed quite satisfied with the performance as Marina bade farewell to her diamonds to thunderous applause.

Oddly, professional photographers were not allowed to take pictures of Diamandis (as is customary for just about any concert review), something that wasn’t revealed until just before the doors opened. It is unclear who made that decision. (Primadonna indeed?)


]]>
<![CDATA[Shaky Knees Festival: No Puns Necessary]]>

I'm swirling a 24 oz. PBR tall-boy around 2 a.m. at a bar fashioned from an old church in a neighborhood I can't quite figure out. Is it up-and-coming like our own Over-the-Rhine? Or are we "on the wrong side of the tracks"? I don't really care at this point. I've already gotten drunk once today and spent 12 hours in the burning southern sun. I just want a bed.

There are 20-somethings in rompers, board shorts and woven sandals hunting for a festival after-party lined up around the block waiting for over an hour to sit on picnic benches and drink crummy beers together at a 300% markup over buying them at a gas station. We are only inside because someone among some newly found friends has sweet-talked the back door guy. Point is, I'm bored and ready for bed. I engage a fellow Cincinnatian at this bar after awkwardly sitting in silence for the past 30 minutes. Someone points to an open garage door leading to an abandoned courtyard where a bonfire is burning and shadowy figures have been shuffling in and out of all night. Oh man … I've been to these parties back home. They often end in way more cocaine than I'm comfortable being around or racially tense fights. But it’s the path I have to take to find out where I can sleep, so I throw my hood up to go as unnoticed as possible and dive in.

"If you high as fuck and you having a good time say yeah!"


"YEAH!!"


"If you drunk as fuck and you having a good time say yeah!”

"YEAH!!"

A track starts playing a familiar synth line. Everyone in the rundown rock yard throws their hands up in unison and screams, "I DONT FUCK WIT' YOU!!" Big Sean's breakup anthem blares over the PA. Yes! I'm so down with this. The fact that I'm in dirty soccer shorts and an Against Me! hoodie doesn't matter. The fact that I'm not from here doesn't matter. My age doesn't matter. My race doesn't matter. We all dance and sing along together until the cops show up. Forget the kids waiting in line to drink bad beer on park benches hoping to get laid; this is the most live party I've been to in a long while and nothing like it has ever happened back home.

But this isn't home, it's Atlanta. And it's the best part of Shaky Knees festival. I had headed to the unofficial
capital of the South two days
earlier with wildly different expectations. I was nervous, expecting an endlessly
expansive metropolis like
Chicago or New York where you
could get lost for days just
searching for a legal parking spot
and shouldn’t expect to find a place to rest your head for less than $100 per night.

Instead I was greeted by a uniquely diverse, affordable and welcoming city that didn’t feel much more overbearing than Nashville or our own city. A welcoming attitude of southern charm and hospitality was the cherry on top of every restaurant and bar we’d visit.

Before I go on I feel it should be pointed out that while fully qualified to review a music festival, I fall into a not so primary target demo for festival promoters. Yes I’m white and middle class, but, more importantly, I’m 29. Not young enough to save up my graduation money and go on a road trip with my gal pals for the “party of the summer.” Not late enough in my 30s, with kids of my own old enough to either stay home alone or come with as I check out whatever ’80s Alt band has dusted themselves off to play in the twilight hours of each day in the name of collecting a paycheck. Most of my demographic is too busy being spit up on at all hours of the night by their newborns to afford spending three days drinking in the sun and being blasted by unhealthy decibel levels. But, alas, here I am.

That all being said, my only real complaint with Shaky Knees was its lack of diversity. It is in the Hip Hop capital of the south (several jokes were made asking locals if Outkast are the “presidents of Atlanta”), but it failed to feature a single Hip Hop or R&B act. There was a small representation of Delta music with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Trombone Shorty dotting the schedule early Sunday afternoon (which I unfortunately missed as my attendance was unplanned and last minute, so I had to spend Sunday driving home for work). Every band I saw was just white guys with guitars. Not that there’s anything wrong with some of that, but I didn’t see a single other act that had more than one token female or person of color (the exception being Tennis, which had one extra woman on keys tucked in the back of the stage).

Atlanta’s location provides for an amazing opportunity to unite a wide array of music lovers from all over the country. I met travelers from places as far as New York, Miami, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. It has a stronger African-American middle class than most of the Midwest, as I experienced amongst its nightlife and food scene, and yet the culture of the festival was still focused primarily on a white, suburban, Indie Rock or Folk crowd, which is a shame. Some minor lineup tweaks could make all the difference for an otherwise amazing festival.

Enough of that. We’re here to talk about performances, so let’s party …

DAY 1
Jukebox the Ghost While assessing the lay of the land we settled into our first full set with the Piano Rock trio. My friend, who knows my taste well enough to know I’d instantly
want to judge
them, insisted I
give it a chance. It took a minute,
but with interlude
banter like, "This
is a party song
about breaking
up," or "This is the
dumbest song
ever written,"
these guys are
just having too
much fun to not
want to join in. I
mean, come on
— they closed with
a cover of
Queen’s "Don’t Stop Me Now" (yeah, they really had the balls to do that!) knowing full well their younger fan base would be totally lost and they didn’t give a single fuck. Kudos guys. You will do just fine in this world so long as your hairlines stay in tact.

Tennis I was merely nodding appreciatively through most of their set. Then lead singer Alaina Moore, whose neckline plunged all the way to the top of her high-waisted jeans with nothing but some hard working gravity protecting her from indecent exposure charges, introduced the song “Marathon.” One of the band’s older songs, it’s a solid straight up Doo Wop tune. (Now we’re talkin’!) I was pulled in for just a moment. But then all I could do is re-Imagine them as the opening band in the dance in Back to the Future with this same look and style. Marty never even gets the chance to rip through “Johnny B Goode.” The scene would already be too wild for Hill Valley circa 1955 to handle. There are riots in the streets! Marty disappears from the family photo and his existence fades into obscurity. Fin.

Wavves “Finally ‘the youths’ are partying!” I spent a good chunk of this set under the bright sun on searing black top thinking, “There’s gonna be some seriously dehydrated kids in sweaty ironic tees later.” Wavves’ first record was the only thing that swayed me to let my guard down and learn to accept the lo-fi revolution. Plus, “King of the Beach” is a total jam. But something just isn’t right about the energy of this young crowd. It’s like the Warped Tour of my youth for a new generation that doesn't have a George Bush to rally against and vent their angst toward. There’s a wave of aggressive indulgence in the pile of sweaty bodies that’s directed at nothing in particular and I’m too old or out of touch to understand it. Mostly I was thinking Hedonismbot from Futurama would fit right in crowd surfing over this pit. “Oh my!” Wavves new song was on point, though, perhaps suggesting a move away from the low-fi fuzz that covered up the simplicity of their previous work to something a little more richly melodic.

Manchester Orchestra I had to give this band a chance as my roommate texted me from back home insisting I check it out. I trust her. So I go. And, yeah, it’s heavy and I like that, but I’m not sure I get it yet. There are these glimmers of sing-along anthem glory, but in my 30-45 minute blind taste test of them I didn’t get enough of that flavor to crave seconds. Maybe some more research before they visit us for Bunbury next month will bring me around.

The Mountain Goats “AND HARD TIMES ARE WHEN A MAN HAS WORKED AT A JOB 30 YEARS AND THEY KICK HIM IN THE BUTT AND SAY: HEY, A COMPUTER HAS TOOK YOUR PLACE, DADDY. THAT’S HARD TIMES!” This is part of the epic, booming three-minute intro that sets the stage for The Mountain Goats’ show, a voiceover shouting a challenge to the Macho Man Randy Savage daring him to a fight in the ring across an empty stage. It gets you properly amped for what’s to follow. You can feel John Darnielle and his gang carry that energy right onto the stage with them as it ends and the crowd erupts. Don’t make the mistake of lumping these guys in with the dusters “just out for a paycheck” I mentioned earlier based on their age. You will rarely see someone look so happy to sing songs he wrote 20 years ago with as much conviction as Darnielle. His stage presence oozes “I’m a professional, but I’m having a blast!” And the crowd responds, “Alright John. Then I am too!” That presence is so strong he still wins over crowds with brand new songs despite already having a discography over 15 full-lengths deep. What's that streaming down my face as they close out with “No Children,” the hauntingly triumphant ode to the end of the ugliest relationship you’ve ever heard? It’s … it’s just a really heavy bead of sweat! It's hot out here damn it! Leave me alone!

Mastodon At this point in the day I just can’t take standing up anymore. Another minor issue with Shaky Knees overall was the food options. The ratio of local food trucks to festivalgoers yielded unbearably long lines for anyone hoping to catch some of the later acts of the day. Beer however was in ample supply, so I grabbed one to sip on while catching the most Metal moment of the weekend from a hill a hundred or so yards out from the main stage. Metalheads I trust recommend Mastodon and, yeah, they were fine with me too. Only problem is they fell just short of what I’m looking
for in their songwriting, a craft often overlooked
by Metal bands in my opinion. And so I spent
most of their set wishing I was watching Ghost
instead and checking my phone for any news of
their next release. We should expect that in
August.

Pixies Kim Deal purists be damned. Her current replacement did just fine and sounded spot-on like the records to me. While expecting those aging rockers coming out to collect a paycheck I’ve been talking about, there was still a dash of magic left. Or maybe it’s just that little flutter I get when a song starts up that I’ve been listening to for 15 or so years, like “Here Comes Your Man,” with no expectation of ever hearing live because, to be honest, it was a little loose at times. Okay. Really loose. Like, Frank Black stopped in the middle of a song and said, “That was my fault. I went to the chorus too soon,” and went on to the next one loose. Makes you feel a little bummed for folks who shelled out full price for a pass just because they’re so stoked to see their favorite band. So yeah, maybe my nostalgia high is wearing off now that I’m reflecting back and realizing Kim’s replacement was honestly the most engaging part of the set.

The Strokes Lead singer Julian Casablancas isn’t exactly the king of charisma. Hell, he’s not even the dunce in the corner of Charisma 101, which makes it really hard to accept this band as a headliner. His attempts at on-stage banter made for some of the most uncomfortable moments of the weekend. Tie that in with his cracking voice straining to push out the words “How long must I wait” before it just gave out during the first song of their encore, “Vision of Division.” Their set became downright unbearable at times. Unfortunately, on top of this, “Reptilia” is the only song I really care for and they opened with it. So I was over it quick. The crowd didn’t seem to care though. They all still went nuts when the song that sounds exactly like “Last Night” but isn’t it came on halfway through their set.

And so, in my constant battle of jaded cynicism vs. the fact that I do genuinely love live music, I’d say day one ended in a draw. On to round two!

Day 2
Kevin Devine We raced back to the festival grounds to catch this set, but I wasn’t quite awake enough yet and needed to finish my coconut water to get things going. But Kevin didn’t care. His high energy set was better than anticipated and got me back in the game. He’s got the Indie/Emo “slow burn, build and release” pattern down and I’m totally ready to go up and down for the ride. Definitely keep an ear out for him.

Mariachi El Bronx Exactly what it sounds like. It’s Los Angeles hardcore band The Bronx … playing mariachi. I honestly resisted them for years as my friends raved and I assumed it was just another silly novelty crossover band. But they’re such great players that they managed to transcend the novelty and throw one hell of a party. Unfortunately, The Bronx gang seemed to draw the short end of the stick for the entire festival as this set was early on the main stage where the bass in the mix was for a much larger headlining crowd and it ruined the whole balance of the band. I had to leave halfway through as my body couldn’t handle the blasting waves of low end. But their bass player sure sounded great!

Speedy Ortiz “I think Squidbillies is here right?” lead singer Sadie Dupuis says between songs with minimal irony or facetiousness in her voice. And it’s this feeling of off beat intimacy the band tries to interject into the mid-afternoon, sun-drenched crowd that draws me in. It helps me understand why others are drawn to them, while my aging ears struggle to get hip to it. Dupuis voice and melodies, along with everyone else’s performances, are great, their style of off-the-beaten-path harmonic and chord structure however have never really set in for me. It kind of killed off my mariachi buzz and I stepped out halfway through to plan the rest of my day in some shade.

Viet Cong I went into this thinking the tough as nails name meant I was about to see a bratty and loud Punk band, which I was kind of stoked about. But the droning bass and synth is all good too! Makes me want to get in the world’s angriest space shuttle and fly to the moon. As they droned the last two chords of their final song back and forth for nearly three minutes I found myself wanting to shout, “Just take off damn it!” These guys would be equally good for when you're drunk alone at 4 a.m. again and your Joy Division records are just too far out of reach, plus you need a little extra edge to encourage you to break a few things!

Metz If you wish The Hives were still a hard touring band, these guys will get you half way there. Plus they’re a lil’ heavier to boot. That being said, the riffs could be a little catchier for my taste, but they still deliver enough to keep me hanging on and start snooping around for their records next time I’m out. Plus, you’ve got to love a band that you know is making somebody in Canada say, "You know that quiet guy in accounting? Yeah he TOTALLY shreds on the weekends!" Probably also worth mentioning here that these guys will be tearing up the Woodward Theater with Viet Cong on July 21st and it’s definitely going to be worth being there.

FIDLAR Plain and simple: This is why I love Punk. Just look at the dumb, unbridled joy on the faces of this sea of kids bouncing up and down in unison. There’s a certain “it” factor that the best live acts have regardless of technical difficulty or skill required to accurately perform their songs which I’ve never been able to put my finger. (FIDLAR said it best during their own set: “That’s right guys, all you need is three chords!”) This band definitely has it. The fact that I’m getting too old and responsible to honestly relate to their lyrics doesn’t matter. I think cocaine is childish and immature and I think drinking cheap beer is a waste of calories … but goddamn. I just can’t help but scream along in unison with these kids and share their same dumb, shit-eating grin. They are rescheduling their recently cancelled show at Thompson House. Keep an eye out for the new date and be prepared to lose your goddamn mind.

The Bronx And this is why I love hardcore! This is one of the tightest performances I saw up to this point despite unfortunately having the smallest crowd. No frills, just solid playing and tight execution. I had tried getting into them on record a few years back and something didn't click. Now it does. Time to go back and start working on picking up some change on the dance floor again.

Neutral Milk Hotel Yep. There's still too much ex-girlfriend attachment to this band for me to really enjoy it. Plus, they played at the time of day where no matter how close you want to get, you bottleneck at a point in the crowd that’s too far away to really feel a part of the set. “Maybe I should see if the Bronx is still playing? Why did I leave!? If one more person near me gushes over how cool using a saw as instrument is heads might roll …” Also the flock of blond college-age girls flocking out of the crowd after “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” was played early in the set was amazing. Am I being too cynical? Whatever. Jeff Mangum’s voice is still on point after all these years. Still worth it.

Wilco At this point that bottleneck was just too far away to really get into what was happening on stage, which bummed me out because I had to miss Wilco’s show in Cincy a few days earlier. The drunk people next to me were almost as loud as the reverberations distantly ringing on the stage. But hey — they’re still cranking out the hits and they're still Wilco, so you gotta love it. But I was a little too buzzed and nervous about not getting a good spot and running into this same situation for the Avetts, so I dipped out a little early.

The Avett Brothers “Effortless.” People challenge me all the time to explain why I believe these guys are objectively one of the best live musical acts in music right now and this is the only word I can ever seem to muster. The level of focus, mastery and attention to
detail that goes into the
performance this crew puts on
night after night should be
obvious to anyone who’s so
much as taken a single guitar or
voice lesson. The love, passion, joy, and energy they
infuse into every song, whether
it’s a sing-along anthem like
“Kick Drum Heart” or a soft
ballad like “The Ballad of Love
and Hate,” makes the whole act
seem more effortless every time
I see them. Whether it’s Seth’s
improvisational riffing on their
already perfect vocal lines or
Scott’s conviction and sincerity
when telling the crowd he needs their help singing along with something, I truly believe they would win over any true music fan who is willing to let go and be taken by the power of one of their sets. No other band refracts as much love for what they’re doing on stage back to an audience quite like the Avetts. Their headlining set at Bunbury will be their first performance in Cincinnati since 2008. Do not miss it.

Whoa. What a ride. The fact that I’m having trouble wrapping this up despite the fact that I missed a whole day of the festival is a testament to just how much Shaky Knees has to offer music lovers. I’m having trouble keeping the two-day experience I had from unraveling into a full novella and am now forcing myself to shut up. Despite its limitations, there is still enough diversity to keep most fans of semi-independent Rock or Alternative on their toes. (No. It was not hard to resist a “shaky knees” pun here.) But when you attend next year, don’t let your time adjusting to the southern sun tap all of your energy for experiencing the city’s culture and nightlife. As much as I love Cincinnati, I think we have much to learn from this gem down South and I look forward to returning soon.

— Josh Elstro

]]>
<![CDATA[Walk the Moon to Play ‘The Voice’ Tuesday]]>

If you have access to a radio or television set, then you’re likely well aware that “Shut Up and Dance” by Cincinnati Dance Pop crew Walk the Moon has become a bona fide Pop hit. The single has been certified platinum, meaning it has sold more than one millions copies. The catchy, danceable track is currently at No. 5 on Billboard’s singles chart and has also performed very well on various other charts. “Shut Up” reached No. 2 on iTunes Top Songs chart and Billboard’s digital charts. On Spotify, the song has been streamed more than 78 million times, while “Shut Up”’s video has held a steady presence in the Top 10 of VH1’s Top 20 video countdown. Talking is Hard, Walk the Moon’s second album for RCA Records, continues to benefit from the single’s success, moving as high as No. 14 on Billboard’s overall album chart.

The Cincinnati band has worked hard to push “Shut Up and Dance” to the upper reaches of the Pop charts. Along with the usual late-night talk show circuit, Walk the Moon has also appeared on network morning shows like The Today Show (which used various WtM tunes as bumper music throughout the day the band appeared) and The Ellen DeGeneres Show


When DeGeneres introduced the group on her show, she called “Shut Up” the band’s “No. 1 hit,” which it wasn’t at the time but could end up there as Walk the Moon keeps up its relentless promotional push. WtM’s is also becoming a bigger and bigger concert draw, selling out many of its shows across the country (the band just recently completely another successful U.S. jaunt).


And WtM has also been making it onto prime time TV lately. Last month, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker danced to “Shut Up” for a routine on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Tuesday night (May 12), the band will play “Shut Up” as special guests on NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice. Tune in to catch the performance at 8 p.m. 


Though several Cincinnati-based acts have done well on a national level, crossing over to the top of the Pop charts is pretty rare, particularly for artists who choose to remain in their hometown while pursuing their career. Walk the Moon comes home to play Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival on June 5 along the Ohio’s riverfront. Click here for tickets/details


]]>
<![CDATA[Free Summer Music in the Parks]]>

Just a couple of decades or so ago, downtown Cincinnati resembled a ghost town in the evenings. Once 5 p.m. rolled around, most downtown workers hopped in their cars and headed home, rarely staying in or visiting the city’s core for any other reason (maybe a concert or sporting event, but that was largely a “parking garage/game/home” process). It’s hard to explain to some younger locals just how much the city has changed since then, with the life and energy brought back to Downtown and nearby Over-the-Rhine over recent years becoming the norm. 

There are, of course, numerous reasons for the resurrection of the city’s center, much of which is covered weekly in CityBeat (new restaurants, bars, events and other additions, plus the influx of people deciding to live in the area). Every summer I’m particularly struck by the huge shift the city has made when I attend some of the many free live, outdoor concert options available to the public most days of the week. Seeing hundreds of people from all backgrounds enjoying free music in a variety of genres is yet another thing that should make our city proud of how far we’ve come. 


Lineups for this summer’s music series on Fountain Square and Washington Park, as well as the relative newcomer, Smale Riverfront Park, have gradually been unveiled over the past few weeks. Below is a list of scheduled events so far. All of the series do a great job of spotlight the enormous local talent in the city, and there are also several concerts featuring national touring acts that would otherwise cost you several dollars for tickets (or at least a cover charge of some sort). 


Print this out, grab a highlighter and mark your favorites (or, heck, take a chance on something new) and then get ready for another great summer for music lovers in the Queen City. (These are only the weekly music-related happenings; visit myfountainsquare.com, washingtonpark.org and mysmaleriverfrontpark.org for all kinds of other events happening this summer in the spaces.)


FOUNTAIN SQUARE

Salsa on the Square

The long-running Salsa on the Square series gets a jumpstart on the other music series on Fountain Square, kicking off today (and continuing through mid-September, which is also later than the other series). Running 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the concerts feature numerous area Salsa bands, lots of dancing and even some instructors on hand to help you out if you need some tips. 


May 7: Son Del Caribe

May 14: Tropicoso

May 21: Kandela

May 28: Clave Son

June 4: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao

June 11: Kentucky Salsa All-Stars

June 18: Son Del Caribe

June 25: Zumba

July 2: Kandela

July 9: Clave Son

July 16: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao

July 23: Kentucky Salsa All-Stars

July 30: Tropicoso

Aug. 6: Stacie Sandoval & Grupo Tumbao

Aug. 13: Monk River

Aug. 20: Clave Son

Aug. 27: Son Del Caribe

Sept. 3: Afro-Cuban Cartel

Sept. 10: Tropicoso

Sept. 17: Latin Beat Project


American Roots

The American Roots series features a variety of acts that cover the wide spectrum that is Americana music today. Most of the top local Roots acts are performing, while touring artists like American Aquarium, Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys, Dale Watson and more will also make appearances. Each night features two performers. Music runs 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.


May 26: American Aquarium and Ben Knight and the Welldiggers 

June 2: Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle and Wild Carrot 

June 9: Chicago Farmer and Shiny and the Spoon

June 16: Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys and Jeremy Pinnell

June 23: The Shook Twins and G. Burton

June 30: The Quebe Sisters and Howlin’ Brothers

July 7: Dale Watson and Straw Boss

July 14: TBA

July 21: Quiet Life and Crow Moses

July 28: The Brothers Landreth and Josh Eagle and Harvest City

Aug. 4: Arlo Mckinley and Wilder

Aug. 11: Young Heirlooms and The Hiders

Aug. 18: Bulletville and Noah Smith

Aug. 25: Elk Creek and Frontier Folk Nebraska

Sept. 1: Dallas Moore and Pure Grain


Reggae Wednesday 

Joining the usual array of some of the finest Reggae bands in the city and region this year for Reggae Wednesday are numerous touring bands, including St. Louis’ Taj Weekes & Adowa, Jamaican natives Yabba Griffiths and Jah Messengers Reggae Bnad and Brooklyn’s New Kingston. Reggae Wednesdays run 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.


May 27: Areesaa Iyah & The Eastwind Band

June 3:  Taj Weekes & Adowa

June 10: Yabba Griffiths & the Traxx Band

June 17: Ras Bonghi Reggae All-Stars

June 24: Positive Mental Attitude

July 1: The Flex Crew

July 8: The Ark Band

July 15: The Cliftones

July 22: Gizzae

July 29: Oriel Barry and the Revoluters

Aug. 5: New Kingston

Aug. 12: Ukombozi 

Aug. 19: All Star Jammerz

Aug. 26: Jah Messengers Reggae Band

Sept. 2: Anthem Reggae Band


MidPoint Indie Summer

Sponsored by the popular late September MidPoint Music Festival (which, full disclosure, CityBeat runs), this year’s Indie Summer concerts (held each Friday) feature some of the biggest acts in the series’ history, alongside some of the best Rock/Indie/Alt/Electronic bands in Cincy. The Indie Summer shows showcase four acts and begin at 7 p.m. each week. (More artists are to be added to certain dates.)


May 29: Surfer Blood; The Yugos; Automagik; Harbour
Jun 5: The Mowgli's; One Day Steady; Nevele; Beloved Youth
Jun 12: Kopecky; Broncho; Coconut Milk; Near Earth Objects
Jun 19: Buffalo Killers; Ohio Knife; Mad Anthony; Go Go Buffalo
Jun 26: Sloan; Mother Mother; Old City
Jul 3: Red Wanting Blue; Young Heirlooms; Motherfolk; Chris Salyer
Jul 10: Saint Motel
Jul 17: The Ting Tings; Brick + Mortar; Black Signal
Jul 24: Givers; Prim; Even Titles
Jul 31: The Whigs; Multimagic; Pop Goes the Evil; The Never Setting Suns
Aug 7: Tweens; Leggy; Smut; Shark Week
Aug 14: Judah & The Lion; Seabird; Matt Hires; Along the Shore
Aug 21: San Fermin; Lemon Sky
Aug 28: Wussy; Pike 27; The Perfect Children; JetLab
Sep 4:The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die; Injecting Strangers; Moonbeau: Edison


Beats by Self Diploma 

Local production/promotion crew Self Diploma has always done a fantastic job of bringing in some of the hottest acts on the EDM and Hip Hop circuits, making its Saturday night showcases some of the biggest of all the series. Last year, the group opened things up to other genres and offered audition opportunities to artists of all sort. Though still heavy on DJs, Electronic/Dance music and Hip Hop, this year’s lineup also includes things like Country Pop and live R&B and Funk. Music starts each Saturday at 7 p.m., with the last act going on at 10 p.m.


May 30: Alex Angelo; Ezzy; Aprina; Justin Stone

June 6: Ja Rule; Trademark Aaron; Diamond Star Russell; Mayo

June 13: King Chip; Cameron Grey; Razook; Sarob

June 20: Nappy Roots; Packy; Ajax Stacks & Nate Paulson; Alexa Lusader

June 27: OnCue; Cato; Rhett Wellington

July 4: Ground Up; DJ Kev the Goon; Swah; David Zup

July 18: Milk N Cookies; Panzer; Reaux; Button Mashers

July 25: Futuristic; Marc Goone; Puck; The Media

August 1: No Sleep; DJ Drowsy; CopyCats; Gold Dash

August 8: Huey Mack; Kid Quil; Lauren Vanatsky; Kid Slim

August 15: Kap Slap; Saranate; RandiFloss

August 22: Academy; TJ Hickey; Sh3llz; Benji

August 29: JMSN; Oregonia; Tana Matz

September 5: The Jane Doze; Gateway; Halogen


WASHINGTON PARK

Washington Park has stripped back to two weekly music series this year, but both offer plenty of exciting performers. 


Bandstand Bluegrass

The Bluegrass shows return this year to the centralized gazebo/bandstand stage every Thursday (except Aug. 6, which sees the return of the popular Lumenocity multi-media extravaganza). The “Bluegrass” part of the name is a bit of a misnomer; Bluegrass bands are on the schedule, but so are plenty of other Americana/Country/Roots/Folk acts. I guess alliteration is more fun than bad puns (or maybe Dick Clark’s production company would sue if they went with “Americana Bandstand”). Music starts at 7 p.m. and there are usually two acts per night. This year’s lineup includes an appearance by Country Blues favorite Charlie Parr, diverse Michigan ensemble The Appleseed Collective and a few other national acts.


May 28: The Mamadrones

June 4: Mustered Courage and Blair Crimmins

June 11: Willow Tree Carolers

June 18: Jake Book and New Country Rehab

June 25: Woody Pines and Barefoot Movement

July 2: Casey Campbell and Charlie Parr

July 9: Mipso and Railsplitters

July 16: The Appleseed Collective and The Tillers

July 23: Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle

July 30: Red Cedars and Blue Rock Boys

August 13: Hu Town Holler and Town Mountain

August 20: Mike Oberst and My Brother’s Keepers

August 27: Comet Bluegrass All-Stars

September 3: Al Scorch & Friends


Friday Fusion

Fridays at Washington Park, R&B and Jazz acts from all over the country (there are some real legends in this bunch) will provide the sounds for Friday Fusion. The concerts rotate between the Bandstand stage and the Main Stage (across from Music Hall). Music begins at 7 p.m.


May 29: Midnight Star (Main Stage)

June 5: Dixie Karas Group (Bandstand)

June 12: Michel’le (Main Stage)

June 19: Eddie Brookshire Quintet (Bandstand)

June 26: Hot Magnolias (Bandstand)

July 3: Delfeayo & Jason Marsalis (Main Stage)

July 10: Zapp Band (Main Stage)

July 17: Straight Ahead All-Female Jazz Band (Main Stage)

July 24: Tim Warfield Quartet (Main Stage)

July 31: Marc Fields Quintet (Main Stage)

August 14: Soul Pocket (Main Stage)

August 21: Vernon Hairston Trio (Bandstand)

August 28: Kathy Wade with the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (Main Stage)


SMALE RIVERFRONT PARK

Cocktails and Crown Jewels 

Washington Park previously hosted the weekly Crown Jewels of Jazz concerts, but this year the series moves to one of the city’s newer green-space gems, Smale Riverfront Park (near the river and The Banks). Now called Cocktails and Crown Jewels, the concerts are heavy on Jazz acts but also include some R&B, Salsa and the melange of styles crafted by funky party crew The Cincy Brass. Music starts at 7:30 p.m. The concerts take place on the park’s Schmidlapp Event Lawn & Stage most Thursdays throughout the summer. The shows are free but attendees can also pay $25 to enjoy the music from the special VSP Area (with some food and drink included). 


May 28: Alex Bugnon

June 4: The Cincy Brass

June 11: Urban Jazz Coalition 

June 25: WOW featuring Tim Warfield and Bobby Floyd

July 2: FrenchAxe

July 16: Craig Bailey and the Cincy Jazz All-Stars

July 23: Orquesta Kandela

Aug. 6: Ingrid Woode & the Woode Tribe Orchestra

Aug. 13: fo/mo/deep

Aug. 27: Sound Body Jazz Orchestra


]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Freekbass’ “Everybody's Feelin' Real” Music Video]]>

The new music video from veteran Cincinnati funkateer (and relentless road dog) Freekbass recently appeared online. The clip for “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real” — the slinky, head-boppin’ Pop/Funk title track from Freekbass’ most recent full-length release — shows a variety of scenes and special guests to the viewer through a smartphone screen (fitting, as more and more people seem to be viewing life in that manner anyway). 

Though endearingly short on special effects, the clip is still wildly engaging, particularly as you play “spot the cameo.” The video features some big-name special guests from the world of music, including Mike Gordon of Phish, Ryan Stasik of Umphrey's McGee, George Porter Jr. of The Meters, Stefan Lessard of Dave Matthews Band, Bernie  Worrell from P-Funk and Talking Heads, Steve Molitz from Particle, Zion Godchaux of BoomBox, Cincinnati native Alan Light (music journalist and former editor of Vibe and Spin magazines) and Bigg Robb from Zapp. Cincinnatians and baseball fans will also notice a very familiar face — the Hit King himself, Pete Rose, pops up to sing/lip sync part of a chorus. 


Click here to stream/purchase Everybody's Feelin' Real. It should be Freekbass’ last self-released effort for a while; earlier this year he announced that the respected indie label Ropeadope will release his next album



]]>
<![CDATA[Rescheduled “Tunes & Blooms” Concerts Begin Tonight ]]>

 Every April, the Cincinnati Zoo presents an every-Thursday concert series called “Tunes & Blooms,” which showcases some of the finest local bands in Greater Cincinnati (as well as the Zoo’s Botanical Garden in full bloom). But for this year’s series, Mother Nature had different plans, as April showers brought cancelled concerts on April 2, 9 and 16. 

The free concerts have been rescheduled and begin this evening (Wednesday) with local Folk/Americana favorites Hickory Robot and The Tillers. The next rescheduled date is tomorrow (Thursday) and features another pair of Folk dynamos — Jake Speed and the Freddies and Shiny and the Spoon. The final rescheduled show takes place May 13 with the fantastic Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle and Honey & Houston


The music begins at 6 p.m. all three evenings and runs until 8:30 p.m. There is no admission charge to get into the zoo after 5 p.m. (there is a $9 fee is you’d like to park in the zoo’s parking lot). Click here for more info. 


]]>
<![CDATA[MidPoint Music Festival Announces First Acts for 2015 Event]]>

Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival (owned and operated by CityBeat) recently announced that tickets for the late September festival were on sale, as well as a new date format (instead of Thursday-Saturday, 2015’s MPMF will take place Friday, Sept. 25-Sunday, Sept. 27). Now the first artists slated to appear at MPMF have been unveiled. 

The first batch of MidPoint 2015 acts includes pioneering British Shoegaze band Ride, Canadian Electro Pop duo Purity Ring, Indie/Electronic up-and-comers Sylvan Esso, experimental artist tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) and diverse Indiana songwriter Strand of Oaks. The rest of the initial lineup announcement features Zola Jesus, Cathedrals, Matthew E. White, Pokey LaFarge, Moon Duo, Betty Who, K.Flay, Beach Slang, Sarah Jaffe, Ryley Walker and Truly


More artists (as well as specific schedule and venue info) will be announced in the coming weeks as the Over-the-Rhine/Downtown festival approaches. For the latest updates, tickets (a limited amount of early bird passes are still available) and more info, visit mpmf.com. Artists interested in showcase consideration can still apply through mpmf.com through May 17. 


Here's a sampling of some music clips from this round of MPMFers:








]]>
<![CDATA[Musicians Pay Tribute to Influential, Gone-to-Soon Singer/Songwriters]]>

Tribute albums are typically divided into three categories. They’re either a) bankable artists covering high profile subjects (or, infrequently, famously known cult figures); b) cool/respected artists covering cool/respected artists; or c) some weird hybrid of the first two. 

Two recently released tributes fall squarely in the second category, with Avett Brothers frontman Seth Avett and rising Americana/Rock vocalist Jessica Lea Mayfield taking a quietly beautiful stroll through a sampling of Elliott Smith's exquisite catalog on Sing Elliott Smith, and Frames frontman and solo artist in his own right Glen Hansard honoring his great hero and friend Jason Molina on It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, which was available last month.


There are odd connections between the two projects. In the general point of interest sense, both are posthumous tributes. Smith died in 2003, apparently by his own hand, and Molina succumbed in 2013 after a long battle with alcoholism. And on a more personal level, by the sheerest of coincidences, I've interviewed both of the subjects of these two tributes.


Back in 2000, I spoke with Smith while he was still touring on Figure 8, which had come out earlier that year. And in 2003, I was assigned a feature on Songs: Ohia, fronted and braintrusted by Molina, who had just finished an album he titled The Magnolia Electric Co., which marked the end of Songs: Ohia and the shift to the band named after his new album. Both were fascinating and heartfelt conversations with artists who were amazingly self aware but not at all self absorbed, quietly brilliant songwriters who had an almost pathological need to extract their musical impulses from the dark well of their ultimately troubled souls.


Hansard — who came to prominence as the voice, guitarist and primary songwriter for Irish Rock band The Frames before establishing a side project (Swell Season) and solo career and hitting semi-big with the movie Once and his soundtrack, featuring the Academy Award-winning hit "Falling Slowly" — was so inspired by Molina's deeply emotional and confessional songcraft that the first fan letter he ever sent to a fellow artist was to Molina. Back in 2005, two years after I'd interviewed Molina, I had the rare opportunity to witness the pair's personal and professional bond firsthand.


At my second South by Southwest experience, I followed former The Onion music editor Stephen Thompson to see a Frames appearance at one of Austin's innumerable daytime parties. Stephen was a huge Frames fan and the band knew him well; he had done enough to help expose the band to American audiences that they thanked him in the liner notes to Burn the Maps.


When we arrived at the venue, the band members were wandering through the crowd just prior to their set and Stephen made a beeline for them. He introduced me to The Frames, but there was a dark, diminutive and somewhat familiar presence in the circle who was clearly with the band but not as a member. Glen Hansard spoke up, in his pudding thick Irish brogue, and said, "This is Jason Molina."


I shook his hand and reminded him of our phone conversation and the Rockpile feature two years previous. He greeted me warmly and we talked about what we'd seen at the festival to that point and what we hoped to see going forward. We spent a good 10 minutes in this convivial manner, right up until The Frames took the stage and were announced. After that, his unwavering focus was on the band; he watched and listened as though he was occupying the front pew in church during a sermon he knew for an absolute fact would change his life for the better. He stood in rapt attention, soaking in every word, every note and every nuance and with good reason — The Frames were a mesmerizing live force back then.


At the set's conclusion, Molina immediately swiveled toward me and we exchanged jaw-dropped exclamations of disbelief. Within a few minutes, Hansard made his way to Molina's side and the two began critiquing the performance, Hansard pointing out the flaws and Molina categorically dismissing them. I laughingly thought to myself as I headed to the door and the next party, I'll bet their roles will be diametrically reversed when Magnolia Electric Co., the band that Songs: Ohia had morphed into, plays later this week and Hansard is the fan in the front row. It reminded me of something Molina had said regarding the fact that he was already thinking past the album he had just finished. 


"I can do better," he said without hesitation. "My next one, I'm already sweating it. Since the day I walked out of the studio, I've been working on the next one. I don't feel like this one failed, but I'm still looking for the better one."


I thought about Hansard's face as it must have looked while he watched Molina's appearance in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, and imagined the sadder but equally beatific visage he must have exhibited in the studio as he was translating the five tracks that comprise It Was Triumph We Once Proposed. This brief and beautifully executed EP serves a similar purpose as Hansard's distant but never forgotten fan letter, as he pays loving tribute to his long personal friendship with Molina and to the work that first illuminated his immense talents to the world.


Hansard assembled a group of longtime Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. collaborators/friends to record a heartbreaking quintet of Molina compositions, all Songs: Ohia tracks and all lending themselves perfectly to Hansard's passionate and sensitively wrought translation. Molina often worked at the creative intersection of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and Hansard taps into that shivery vibe with a true fan's boundless devotion and a true friend's immeasurable grief. On the one-two punch of the powerfully poignant "Being in Love" and the achingly beautiful "Hold On, Magnolia," Hansard illuminates the raw, wrenching wisdom of lines like, ”We are proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn," and the prescient "You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me." And just like Molina's life and amazing musical output, Hansard's It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is both immensely satisfying and far too short.



The other contender for Most Amazing and Deserved Tribute of the Year is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield's Sing Elliott Smith, a (relatively) spare and loving bow to one of this generation's most insightful and contemplative songwriters. After his shredding turn with Portland’s Heatmiser, Smith turned down the volume for his home-recorded solo debut, Roman Candle, which was followed by his equally nuanced eponymous sophomore album and then the jewel in his crown, 1998's Either/Or, which director Gus Van Zant cherry-picked for his soundtrack to his masterpiece Good Will Hunting. Smith scored an Academy Award nomination for his song "Miss Misery," and the success of the soundtrack and his almost uncomfortably vulnerable performance at the Oscars vaulted him into a spotlight that he never actively pursued.


By the time of our 2000 interview, Smith had managed to come to uneasy terms with the maelstrom of fame that resulted from Good Will Hunting and Either/Or's tangential success. It had required him to think about his work in pedestrian ways, to explain it in a fashion that would be understandable to people with little understanding.


But through it all, Smith remained true to his own process, trusting that, regardless of outside opinions, expectations or interests, he continued to create the kind of music he wanted to hear in the manner that he wanted to create it. And he knew that, no matter how much anyone involved in his career wanted him to pull Either/Or 2 out of his magician's hat, the only thing that would truly satisfy his artistic nature would be to create what came out of him organically, without being conjured or forced.


"I don't think it was on my mind," Smith said about making the Beatlesque Figure 8 in the wake of major-label debut XO, Either/Or and Good Will Hunting. "I was just making up songs the way I always do. I mean, it was never going to sell millions of copies, so there wasn't that kind of pressure."


That may well be why Sing Elliott Smith is so incredibly successful as a tribute. Smith's songbook is among the most revered in contemporary music and the acclaim that has been lavished on Avett and Mayfield since their debuts is both effusive and deserved. Given all that, there's little risk involved at any level of this project.


The blending of the two principals' voices was the only unknown and that particular question mark is definitely straightened into a boldface exclamation point with Avett and Mayfield's brilliant opening duet on Either/Or's "Between the Bars." Avett's stylistic path from Punk provocateur to rootsy Americana troubadour to genre melding alchemist is a pretty fair match to Smith's own journey, and Mayfield's weary optimism lines up well with Smith's gloomy hopefulness. Together, Avett and Mayfield are the perfect translators for Smith's hushed (and not so hushed) odes to the anguish and bittersweet joy of love and modern life and they coalesce almost effortlessly on brilliant lines like, "Nothing's gonna drag me down/To a death that's not worth cheating." 



It's moments like that one from "Baby Britain" that make Sing Elliott Smith resonate so clearly from start to finish. It's particularly poignant when Mayfield takes the lead on "A Fond Farewell" — from the album Smith was working on at the time of his death, released posthumously as From a Basement on the Hill — and she sings words that seem so startlingly prescient coming so close to Smith's sad end; "A little less than a happy heart/A little less than a suicide/The only thing that you really tried/This is not my life, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/It's not what I'm like, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/Who couldn't get things right."


Avett and Mayfield offer a broad core sample of Smith's amazing catalog (only 1995's self-titled sophomore album isn't represented), and the pair's affinity for and love of their subject's work is evident in every trembling note and emotional lyric. At almost 37 minutes, Sing Elliott Smith is a full album but it feels impossibly short and is over well before the listener is ready for it to be done. If ever there was a release that warranted the often-dreaded subtitle of Volume 2, it would be Sing Elliott Smith.


It seems only proper that the final words in this piece should be reserved for the subjects of these two tributes. First, an interesting comment from Jason Molina about his songwriting process led to a philosophical statement about his musical belief system.


"I almost write the music at the same time I'm trying to think of who could best put this onto tape, and that goes right down to the engineer," he noted. "Maybe it's a cowardly way to work because I don't take all of the burden onto myself, but ego should never be part of the music."


And finally, Elliott Smith addressed the media's tendency to label him as "melancholy," which morphed into an explanation of the simple reality that labels have tried to manipulate and contradict throughout their long and checkered histories.


"As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag," Smith admitted. “Also, 'Why aren't you playing dance music?' and 'Why are your songs so sad?' They're just clichés. If it wasn't those, it would be different ones. You can't always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don't. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there's nine million people that can relate, and I'm not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it's going to be kind of idiosyncratic."


Long live the idiosyncratic artist, and the memories of those who left us way before their creative dreams were fulfilled.


]]>