CityBeat Blogs - Local Music <![CDATA[Voting for the 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Starts Now]]>

The nominations for the 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, honoring Greater Cincinnati’s fantastic music scene, were announced Wednesday and now it’s your turn to weigh in. 

Click here to go to the CEA ballot and vote now.

The 18th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony/party, where the winners for each category will be announced and several acts will perform, returns to Covington’s Madison Theater on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. So far, Young Heirlooms, Injecting Strangers, Mad Anthony, The Cliftones and Buggs tha Rocka are confirmed to play the CEAs this year. Stay tuned for further info; tickets are available here.

An educated voter is the best kind of voter, so why not actually check out some or all of the artists for whom you are voting? Below you will find links to the artists’ pages on the excellent local music site (thanks, CIncyMusic!) featuring links, music, bios and more. (The final three “Critical Achievement” categories are not voted on by the public but rather the CEA nominating committee, but you should still totally check all of those acts out, too.) 

Happy voting!


Comet Bluegrass Allstars

Rumpke Mountain Boys

My Brother’s Keeper

Rattlesnakin’ Daddies

The Missy Werner Band



Dallas Moore


Jeremy Pinnell

Noah Smith

90 Proof Twang

Pure Grain


Young Heirlooms

Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound

Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle

Elk Creek

The Tillers

Shiny and the Spoon

World Music/Reggae: 

The Cliftones

Junya Be


Baoku Moses & the Image Afro-beat Band

Elementree Livity Project

Keshvar Project



Mad Anthony


Buffalo Killers

Pop Goes the Evil

Frontier Folk Nebraska 

Metal/Hard Rock: 

Electric Citizen



Valley of the Sun

Zebras in Public

Close to Home


Arlo McKinley

Noah Smith

Jody Stapleton

Jeremy Pinnell

Rob Fetters

Molly Sullivan 


DAAP Girls

The Yugos


The Hiders

State Song

Injecting Strangers




Kill City

The Dopamines

Black Planet



Ricky Nye

The Whiskey Shambles

Kelly Richey

Noah Wotherspoon

Sonny Moorman Group

John Ford


The Almighty Get Down

The Perfect Children

Under New Order

Ingrid Woode

Freekbass & The Bump Assembly

The Cincy Brass


The Faux Frenchmen

Phil DeGreg and Brasilia

The Hot Magnolias

Art & Science

Blue Wisp Big Band

Animal Mother

Hip Hop: 



Buggs tha Rocka

Valley High

Trademark Aaron

Counterfeit Money Machine



Dream Tiger

Playfully Yours

Black Signal

Dark Colour


Best Live Act: 

The Almighty Get Down



Mad Anthony

Young Heirlooms

Injecting Strangers

Best Music Video: 

Wussy – “North Sea Girls”

Rob Fetters – “Desire”

Mad Anthony – “Sank for Days”

Injecting Strangers – “Detroit”

Sleep – “I Shot Lincoln”

Tweens - “Forever”

The Tillers – “Willy Dear”

Trademark Aaron – “Gold”

Critical Achievement Awards Album of the Year: 

Tweens – Tweens
Pop Goes the Evil – Love Stained Heart
500 Miles to Memphis – Stand There and Bleed
Wussy – Attica!
Rob Fetters – Saint Ain’t
Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound – Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound
The Almighty Get Down – People, This Is …
Buffalo Killers – Heavy Reverie

New Artist of the Year: 

Dream Tiger



Elk Creek


Noah Smith

Artist of the Year: 

Electric Citizen


Mad Anthony


The Tillers

Buffalo Killers

<![CDATA[MusicNOW Announces 2015 Lineup]]>

The annual MusicNOW festival, founded by Cincinnati native and guitarist for Indie Rock superstars The National, returns to various venues in Over-the-Rhine this March for a celebration of the festival’s 10 successful years. The event will utilize Music Hall and Memorial Hall (past MusicNOW venues), as well as the new Woodward Theater (the Contemporary Arts Center will also host a related music/art installation March 11-20). Heavy on collaborations again this year, the shows will run March 11-15. 

Highlights from MusicNOW 2015 include a collaborative performance featuring The National and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The CSO will also perform “Songs from the Planetarium” with MusicNOW vets Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and Dessner. 

Here is the full lineup announced this morning:


Wednesday, March 11th

Woodward Theater - 1404 Main St, Cincinnati, OH

Will Butler


Thursday, March 12th

Woodward Theater - 1404 Main St, Cincinnati, OH

concert:nova with Jeffrey Zeigler


Friday, March 13th

Cincinnati Music Hall - 1241 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The National with the CSO and new commission by Caroline Shaw


Saturday, March 14th

Cincinnati Music Hall - 1241 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Songs from Planetarium featuring Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly & Bryce Dessner with the CSO, new commission by Daníel Bjarnasonand So Percussion

Sunday, March 15th

Memorial Hall - 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH

Perfume Genius, The Lone Bellow, Mina Tindle


March 11th-20th

Contemporary Arts Center- 404 E. 6th St, Cincinnati, OH

A Lot Of Sorrow - by Ragnar Kjartansson featuring The National

An ongoing Installation (see video below)

"Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years," founder Bryce Dessner says in the press release. "When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations, and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity."

Click here for ticket and further info.

<![CDATA[Buggs Tha Rocka Releases Masterful Album for Free]]>

One of Cincinnati finest Hip Hop artists, Buggs Tha Rocka, is making his new album, Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet, available for free starting today on various outlets across the internet (it’s already generated fairly widespread buzz, including write-ups from the U.K. and France). 

Buggs recently spoke with CityBeat’s Brian Baker (who called the new LP a “masterpiece”) about the new release (which features guest spots from Donte from MOOD, Moxy Monster, Tanya Morgan, Aida Chakra and Cool Kids’ Chuck Inglish among others) and his progress in the Hip Hop world. 

“The type of Hip Hop I do has always focused on technicality and emotion,” Buggs said. “I take pride in being a wordsmith. That’s where the ‘American poet’ came from. And ‘scattered thoughts’ is really what it is. It’s everything I’ve been through, things I’m seeing in the news, a little bit of everything. My ups, my downs, my life in one CD. Instead of putting on a facade and an image, it’s really organic and natural.”

You can read Baker’s full interview with Buggs here.

Buggs is hosting an intimate release party/performance this Friday at Over-the-Rhine club Maudie’s. Showtime is 9 p.m., admission is $7 ($5 in advance here) and Buggs will be joined by MOOD’s Donte (and probably other guests?) at the show. 

Buggs has unveiled several videos (made in conjunction with Alvin Jordan and others) for various tracks from the album leading up to the release. Here’s a clip for “Angel of Death” featuring Piakhan:

Buggs tha Rocka ft Piakhan - Angel of Death (Concept Video) from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

Here’s the clip for “Bad Habits”:

Buggs Tha Rocka - Bad Habits (Official Music Video) from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

Here’s Buggs and Pappadon in the clip for “OuterXSpaceXLove”:

OuterXSpaceXLove Feat. Pappadon from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

Here’s “Rapture” featuring Phoenix Aphrodite:

Rapture feat. Phoenix Aphrodite from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

This is the clip for “My$tery”:

Buggs Tha Rocka | MY$TERY from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

And here is the newest clip, for the track “Religiously,” which was released today:

Buggs Tha Rocka - Religiously (Official Music Video) produced by Hop Trax from Buggs Tha Rocka on Vimeo.

Visit Buggs’ official site here for the latest info and to download the album. You can also click below to check out and grab a copy of Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet.

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Yelawolf and The Lone Bellow]]>

Alabama-born Hip Hop artist Yelawolf plays Newport’s Thompson House tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Yelawolf began making waves in 2005 after self-releasing his debut album, Creek Water. The gifted MC landed a major-label deal with Columbia within two years, but the deal fizzled out and Yelawolf returned to working the underground. By the start of this decade, Yelawolf’s signed with Eminem’s Shady Records.

His debut for the label, 2011’s Radioactive, featured guests like Killer Mike, Lil Jon and Kid Rock and was a chart and critical success. More track releases, mixtapes and collaborations kept fans occupied after the 2012 announcement of his second Shady Records album, Love Story, which will materialize next year. Yelawolf has been selling out shows all over the country, so you might want to call ahead or show up early. 

Vibe recently posted an interview with the MC about his latest goings-on. Check it out here.

• Fantastic modern Americana trio The Lone Bellow plays the 20th Century Theater in Oakley tonight. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $20 at the door.

The Lone Bellow broke through with last year’s self-titled debut album and the trio’s forthcoming LP, Then Came the Morning — due January 27 and produced by Cincinnati native/The National guitarist Aaron Dessner — is drawing a lot of buzz already thanks to the release of a pair of singles. Here’s the video for the most recent one, “Fake Roses”:

Read Brian Baker’s full preview of tonight’s show from the most recent CityBeat here.

Click here for even more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati. 

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: The Pass, Nora Jane Struthers and More]]>

Louisville Electro Pop artists The Pass, who’ve become popular with local audiences thanks to repeated visits to the Cincinnati area (providing highlight sets for more than a couple MidPoint Music Festivals), performs a free show tonight at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub. Local trio JetLab (which just released its self-titled debut last week) opens things up around 10 p.m.

The Pass’ show tonight is the start of a tour in support of the band’s new EP release, High Road, which follows the release of four 7-inch singles at the start of 2014 and comes out this Tuesday. “Take You Out,” a track from the new release, was debuted on the website We All Want Someone to Shout For yesterday. The site says the track "deliver(s) a world of glossy synths, love-sick vocals, and a feel-good atmosphere that you can’t shake anywhere else but the dance floor. With so many electronic groups relying heavily on computers and other effects these days, it’s great to see The Pass deliver such groovy tunes as a full live band. It truly separates them from the rest of the pack."

Check it:

• Nashville-based Americana artist Nora Jane Struthers and her band The Party Line play Newport’s Southgate House Revival tonight. Mike Oberst of local Folk faves The Tillers opens the show at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. 

Struthers was born in Virginia and raised in New Jersey, getting her first taste of the musician’s life as a tween fiddler and traveling to festivals and conventions with her father (a banjoist). Struthers decided to pursue a career in teaching, but after a few years she switched her focus back to music, inspired by watching Tim O’Brien perform at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Her 2010 debut solo album showcased her stellar lyrical abilities and mastery of traditional Americana and Bluegrass sounds. She hit her stride with last year’s Carnival, bolstered by her full-time band, The Party Line. 

Struthers is gearing up for the release of her new album with The Party Line, Wake, which is due in February of next year. The album is said to be more eclectic and nods in a more Rock direction, inspired by her love of recent albums by Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell. 

NPR’s Ann Powers recently interviewed Struthers about the new album (read it here) and unveiled the new album track, “The Same Road.”

• According to B-105 FM’s website, tonight’s Toys for Tots benefit show at Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill is sold out (the bar’s website says there may be “limited tickets” available at the door tonight). The 8 p.m. concert features headliner Easton Corbin, plus up-and-comers Maddie & Tae and RaeLynn

Click here for show details and read Deirdre Kaye’s preview of Maddie & Tae’s performance for CityBeat here

Click here for more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Every Time I Die, Lera Lynn and More]]>

Veteran metallers Every Time I Die play Bogart's in Corryville tonight. The Ghost Inside, Hundredth, Architects and Backtrack are also on the bill. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $26.27.

ETID's creative approach has earned them fans outside of just the Metal world (though they don't seem to have suffered the wrath of purists like Deafheaven or other act that dare to stray from the imaginary blueprint). Here's what Brian Baker had to say about the band's most recent album in his preview for this week's CityBeat.

Every Time I Die's latest album, From Parts Unknown, is the band's third album for Epitaph and seventh overall, and stands as a stylistic scrapbook of their best qualities — full bore Metalcore anthemics, songs both howled and sung, scathingly focused lyrics and guest appearances from Coalesce's Sean Ingram and the Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon. From Parts Unknown may also be the most lavishly praised album in Every Time I Die’s estimable catalog. The title of a song from the new album may provide the best description of the Every Time I Die live experience: “If there is room to move, things move.”

• Another monster of the Metal world, pioneering Bay Area Thrash crew Exodus, is also in the area tonight. The band plays Covington's Madison Theater at 6:10 p.m. Tickets are $25 and the show is open to all ages.

Emerging from the same scene that produced Thrash kings like Testament and Metallica (Kirk Hammett was an original member of Exodus), the band has been tearing shit up for the past 34 years (with a break-up, reunion and then full-time reformation sandwiched in the middle). This past October, Exodus released its 10th album (and first in four years), Blood In, Blood Out.

• If brutal Metal is not your thing, Newport's Southgate House Revival has Texas-born/Georgia-raised/Nashville-based singer/songwriter Lera Lynn tonight in the Revival Room. Locals Wilder open the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door.

Lynn is usually found in the Folk/Americana section of record stores, but she also sprinkles her endearing sound with a variety of other influences (Jazz, Rock, Pop, Country and beyond). Here's Lynn's soulful, rootsy take on TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me," for example:

Lynn's 2014 album The Avenues has been drawing favorable reviews. Here's what NPR's Meredith Ochs had to say:

Long before you figure out exactly what lyrics Lera Lynn is singing, you'll feel the melancholy and mystery in her music. Wistful melodies and the cry of a steel guitar are set to gentle, meditative rhythms. Even the song's sonic spaces suggest loneliness. With the music alone, Lynn creates a tone poem of romantic uncertainty.

Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight.

<![CDATA[Vigil for Concert Tragedy Victims Set for Wednesday]]>

Tomorrow (Dec. 3) marks the 35th anniversary of the concert tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum (now US Bank Arena) where 11 music fans were crushed and killed after fans pushed their way into the arena to see British Rock legends The Who perform. Tomorrow at 7 p.m., a vigil will be held on the plaza between U.S. Bank Arena and Great American Ballpark, where 11 lanterns will be lit in the memory of the victims.

There have been ongoing efforts to erect a memorial marker at the site of the tragedy. The Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation got involved in 2009 to work with family members, survivors and city officials to establish the marker, help organize vigils and assist in spreading awareness of the cause. 

The organization, with help from local journalist Rick Bird (who was covering The Who concert in 1979) and input from family members, survivors and others, have drafted text to be placed on the marker, which still needs final approval before it is put in place at the site of the tragedy. 

The Music Heritage Foundation says Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is “putting his full support behind this effort,” so the marker may be closer to becoming a reality. 

From the Music Heritage Foundation’s press release, here is the proposed text for the marker:

(Side 1)    


In Memoriam 

Walter Adams Jr. 22 Trotwood OH 

Peter Bowes 18 Wyoming OH 

Connie Sue Burns 21 Miamisburg OH

Jacqueline Eckerle 15 Finneytown OH 

David Heck 19 Highland Heights KY

Teva Rae Ladd 27 Newtown OH 

Karen Morrison 15 Finneytown OH

Stephan Preston 19 Finneytown OH

Phillip Snyder 20 Franklin OH 

Bryan Wagner 17 Fort Thomas KY 

James Warmoth 21 Franklin OH

Deepest respects to the families, 

friends and many survivors.

(Side 2)  

The Who 



Eleven concertgoers, trapped 

in a crush of people, died 

at the southwest plaza 

entrance to Riverfront Coliseum 

waiting to see The Who. 

Many others were injured in

what was the deadliest concert 

tragedy in United States history. 

The tragedy spurred passage of a 

crowd safety ordinance, which 

became a model for the world. 

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: The Stray Birds]]>

Pennsylvanian Folk/Americana trio The Stray Birds perform tonight at Newport’s Southgate House Revival. Australian Indie Folk singer/songwriter Jordie Lane opens the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. 

After self-releasing their debut album in 2012, The Stray Birds scored wide-spread acclaim (NPR put it in its Top 10 of Folk/Americana albums released that year) and began to build a following on the road. The hard work (and engaging music) paid off in the form of contract with the esteemed Yep Roc label (home to artists from Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock and Paul Weller to Fountains of Wayne, The Rev. Horton Heat and The Apples in Stereo), which released the band’s Best Medicine album in October. 

Click here to read Brian Baker’s full preview of the show from this week’s CityBeat.

Here is the title track from The Stray Birds most recent LP: 

Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight. 

<![CDATA[WATCH: Freekbass & the Bump Assembly’s “Never Enough” Video]]>

Masterful Cincinnati Funk musician Freekbass and his band The Bump Assembly debuted their new music video for the track “Never Enough” this past weekend during a show at Newport’s Southgate House Revival (which also featured a reunion of Freekbass’ old crew, SHAG). This morning, the clip made its public debut. 

The groovy video is the third one released from the most recent Freekbass album, Everybody’s Feelin’ Real (which you can stream/purchase here). The video was directed by Gary Templeton and features a cameo from Jennifer Hartswick, the singer/trumpeter for the Trey Anastasio Band, who provided vocals on “Never Enough.”

The hard-touring Freekbass and The Bump Assembly (who play Brooklyn tomorrow night and a special unplugged session for Relix Magazine in New York City tomorrow afternoon) don’t currently have any local shows scheduled (though they will be in Louisville and Lexington right after Christmas), but keep an eye here for the latest show announcements. 

<![CDATA[ICYMI: Wussy on CBS This Morning]]>

Veteran Cincinnati band Wussy saw a huge boost of its national profile (and sales) over the weekend when the band was featured on CBS This Morning on Nov. 29. The band’s network TV debut included an entertaining and funny interview segment, spliced with live footage (including shots filmed at this year’s MidPoint Music Festival, where the band opened for The Afghan Whigs in Washington Park). The featurette also showed band members Chuck Cleaver, Mark Messerly and Lisa Walker at their day jobs in Cincinnati and Shake It Records (the Northside record shop whose label branch releases Wussy’s albums) also makes an appearance. 

The band’s appearance also included a performance of “Teenage Wasteland” from Wussy’s latest album, Attica! A bonus performance of another song from the album, “Beautiful,” was also filmed. Watch everything below. 

The appearance had an immediate impact on Wussy’s sales. CBS’s Anthony Mason (who conducted the interview) tweeted that Attica! entered the iTunes album chart at No. 89 after the airing. Amazon sold out of its stock of Attica! CDs. 

Wussy’s next local show in on New Year’s Eve at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. Find out more about Wussy here. And check out CityBeat's most recent profile of the band here (and our very first feature on the band, in 2002, here).

Interview piece:

“Teenage Wasteland”:


<![CDATA[CEAs Now Accepting Submissions for Nominations ]]>

For the 2015 edition of CityBeat's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (to be held in late January), the public now has a chance to be involved in the process of choosing the nominations from Greater Cincinnati’s amazing music scene. Previously, nominations came directly from the nominating committee, which consists of a variety of local music aficionados (writers, bloggers, club owners, etc.). The nominating committee members still have final say in who gets nominated, but for the first time ever they will be presented with your feedback before making their final decisions. 

Here is the link for your input.

The ballot will close on Dec. 5. Here are some basic guidelines from the nominations ballot: 

For the first time ever, fans will have input into the nomination process for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. For each genre category, please enter the name of the performer you feel is deserved of a CEA for their work in 2014. Recordings released publicly between November 2013 and November 2014 are eligible for Album of the Year nominations. The New Artist of the Year category is for artists who have emerged in that same time span (they don’t have to have formed in that date range, just broken through for the first time). 

Nominations are reserved for artists from Greater Cincinnati making original music. Please, no straight-up cover bands. You may only fill out one ballot per email address; additional ballots will be discarded.

A list of the top vote getters in each category will be presented to the nominating committee members. The members will not be restricted to voting only for artists nominated by the public, because some deserved acts may not actively campaign for nominations and the CEAs honor output and accomplishments and not just who has the biggest Facebook friends list or the most followers on Twitter. But the “long list” compiled from public votes will get more artists’ names in front of the nominating committee and help their chances for making the final “short list” of nominees. 

Once the nominations are compiled, the final ballot will be placed online for public voting.

Be fair. Be nice. And happy voting!  

<![CDATA[In Praise of Ironfest]]>

Cincinnati is host to a great number of music festivals and it feels like every season adds another one. Midpoint is becoming nationally recognized for its ability to draw in heavy hitters, Bunbury has exploded in popularity in just a few years and Buckle Up had a great inaugural year this past summer, just to name a few obvious examples. It’s a great time to be a music lover and music journalist in this city.

But for this music journalist, there’s only one festival that gets my money, year in and year out: Ironfest.

Whereas most of Cincinnati’s festivals focus on the city’s vast assortment of Folk and Pop influenced artists, Ironfest is awash in the loud, angry and just plain aggressive side of local music. John “Black Arm” Gerhardt, the organizer of Ironfest, puts in a massive amount of time and effort to assemble a legion of acts that are all a little left of center, but still eclectic enough to bring in all types of fans. There’s only one place in town that you can see the darkened Electronic soundscapes of Black Signal alongside 500 Miles to Memphis’ Country Punk and Moonbow’s raucous brand of Heavy Metal, all under one roof, and that’s at Ironfest.

Nov. 14 and 15 marked Ironfest’s fifth year. It was founded as a celebration of the life of “Iron” Mike Davidson, a mainstay in Cincinnati’s music scene before his untimely passing. While this is still the case, Ironfest has grown beyond a simple memorial. In fact, many of the attendees nowadays didn’t even know “Iron” Mike — myself included. But if Davidson had so many talented friends in so many awesome bands, I’m sad that I didn’t.

Gerhardt has a knack for getting a great mix of bands together to take over Southgate House Revival’s three stages and this year’s iteration was no different. At any time, you could check out the bands listed above, along with the likes of Valley of the Sun, Smoke Signals, Martin Luther and the Kings, The Dopamines, Honeyspiders or out-of-towners like OC45 and Punching Moses (featuring ex-Banderas guitarist Jesse Ramsey), among many more.

While each year’s lineup is undeniably star-studded, Gerhardt also always seems to have one band on the bill that stands out above the rest and this year’s edition was no different. Closing out Saturday night was the reunion of Oxboard Drain, Iron Mike’s old band, with Valley of the Sun’s Ryan Ferrier filling in for the late bassist. I had never heard Oxboard Drain before that night but I got the distinct feeling that I missed something special. When a band still draws fans out that sing along to every word years after their dissolution, you know they made an impact during their tenure. Seeing Ferrier, Gerhardt and the rest of the band honor their friend by ripping through a powerhouse set was something to behold.

While the music at Ironfest is amazing and honoring Iron Mike’s memory is important, neither is the real reason I have attended the past three years. I go for the community that Ironfest celebrates and all of the people it brings together. My roommate attended this year’s festival for the first time this year; at the end of the show he commented that I seemed to know half of the attendees that night. While estimate may have been a bit of an exaggeration, the point is valid. For fans of the scene such as myself, Ironfest is almost like a high school reunion that you’d actually want to attend. New bands mingle with established acts, old bandmates and friends reconnect with each other, and the past and present of Cincinnati’s alternative music scene is celebrated over a weekend.

That’s what makes Ironfest so special. All of the other festivals that Cincinnati hosts every year celebrate the music and musicians contained within them. Ironfest celebrates the community itself that spawns around the music and musicians. It’s a two-day period where we can fondly recall the good memories of days gone by while still creating new memories for the next time we all converge at that old church.

It’s only been just over a week since Ironfest V wrapped up and I already feel like I’m in withdrawal. That much music, that many friends, that much fun in the photo booth (and, yes, that much booze) all adds up to a weekend that’s talked about until the next one rolls around. For many, “Iron” Mike’s passing was a horrible loss but his passing spawned an event that has kept people coming back for five years straight. And for that, I have to say, “Thanks ‘Iron’ Mike, and I’ll see you all next year.”

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Empires and More]]>

Besides sporting one of the best band names in recent memory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. also makes wildly endearing, monstrously melodic Indie/Electro Pop. Detroit’s Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein started the project in 2009 as a home-recording venture, but a pair of EP releases the following year drew widespread attention, leading to a deal with Warner Bros. Records. The band released its debut full-length, It’s a Corporate World, in 2011 and followed it up last year with the acclaimed The Speed of Things. Paste named that album’s single, “Run,” one of the best songs of 2013 and also called them one of the Top 25 live acts around. 

At the start of fall, the band released a new single, “James Dean,” a great slice of chilled-out, slow-jam Pop. 

DEJJ plays Oakley’s 20th Century Theater tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

• Chicago Indie Rock foursome Empires, a 2014’s MidPoint Music Festival favorite, return to Cincy tonight for a 10 p.m. show at The Drinkery in Over-the-Rhine. Great Cincinnati band Pop Goes the Evil opens.

Here’s Ben Walpole’s preview from CityBeat’s official MPMF guide:

Empires enters MPMF 2014 building something close to its namesake this summer. It started with strong showings at Bonnaroo and the Hangout Music Festival, continued with a June appearance on a little program called the Late Show With David Letterman, followed by a well-received four-song EP – all building toward the band’s major-label debut, Orphan, released this week on Chop Shop/Island Records. The album was produced by John Congleton, who has worked with St. Vincent, The Black Angels and Explosions In The Sky, among others.

You’ll Dig It If You Dig: A more up-tempo The National; an artsier The Killers; a less dramatic The Horrors.

Here is the video for “How Does It Feel” from Empires’ most recent release, Orphan


• Stellar Cincinnati singer/songwriter Kim Taylor (read CityBeat’s 2013 profile of Taylor here) headlines MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine tonight. Joining Taylor is Boston Indie/Americana Pop band The Grownup Noise. The band opens the free show at 10 p.m.

The Grownup Noise debuted in 2007 with its inaugural release, a widely acclaimed self-titled full-length. The band recently returned with its three-years-in-the-making third LP, The Problem with Living in the Moment, which came out late last month. 

The Boston Herald has this to say about the new release:

Calling the Grownup Noise’s new work — “The Problem With Living in the Moment” — “an album” seems like a slight. Declaring the folk/rock blend a symphony is overkill, but the 11 tracks have such a orchestral sweep — swelling strings, rippling piano lines, a harmony of percussion arranged with meticulous detail. Let’s call it a suite. That seems to fit.

• “Foot-Stompin’ ” Country-tinged Rock duo Sundy Best, which originated in tiny Prestonburg, Ky., (and is now based in Lexington) plays Newport’s Southgate House Revival tonight. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $15.

The band’s bio describes its sound as “music that re-imagines timeless classic rock of the ‘70s and ‘80s – think the Eagles and the smart, whiskey-voiced lyrics of Tom Petty and Bob Seger.” Along with critical acclaim from outlets like Rolling Stone and The New York Times, the band has found success on the road and satellite radio. and has even scored buzz via attention from the CMT television network. The duo is gearing up for the Dec. 2 release of its latest album, Salvation City.  

Here’s Sundy Best’s video for “Lotta Love,” a track from the album Bring Up the Sun

For more live music events in Greater Cincinnati tonight, click here. 

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Joe Bonamassa, Shaggy and More]]>

Modern Blues/Rock guitar hero Joe Bonamassa might not be a household name, but he has a gigantic fan base. Tonight, many of those fans will fill Music Hall to watch the six-string superstar do his thang. I just drove by Music Hall and he has multiple trucks and busses parked around back, one adorned with the motto, “Always on the Road,” a reference to how he has built such a big following. 

Bonamassa does make records, though. His most recent is Different Shades of Blues. Here’s what CityBeat’s Brian Baker had to say about the LP in his preview of the show (click here for the full preview):

Bonamassa’s latest album, Different Shades of Blue, is a full-tilt electric experience, kicking off with a brief taste of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” — Bonamassa was peeling off Hendrix licks when he was 7 — and roaring into incendiary originals like the scalding “Oh Beautiful,” the funky “Love Ain’t a Love Song,” the relentless “Never Give All Your Heart” and the sinewy title track. 

Tonight’s show starts at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $79-$125. 

• Danish Dance Pop trio New Politics headlines a triple bill of up-and-coming bands playing Bogart’s tonight. The group joins fellow on-the-verge acts Bad Suns and SomeKindaWonderful for the show.

New Politics were in town this past summer to play the Bunbury Music Festival, alongside tourmates Paramore and Fall Out Boy. This fall the group teased new material with the release of the single “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens).” The group’s next album, Vikings, is slated for release next year.

Click here for CityBeat’s full preview of the show.

• Reggae crossover star Shaggy plays the Thompson House in Newport tonight. Local band Elementree Livity Project and veteran Columbus, Ohio, squad The Ark Band open the 7 p.m. show. Tickets are $17.

Shaggy became a superstar in the ’90s/early ’00s with hits like “Boombastic,” “Angel” and “It Wasn’t Me,” a huge smash (you can still hear it on Pop radio to this day) from his six-times Platinum album, Hot Shot, from 2000. Shaggy has continued to release music and tour the world. Last year, Shaggy released Out of Many, One Music, an all-Reggae album that was produced by the legendary duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. 

Click here for more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati. 

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Nils Frahm and Dawn of Midi]]>

Sonic adventurer Nils Frahm performs tonight at the Contemporary Arts Center. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20. 

The German-born composer is touring behind his most recent album, 2013’s Spaces, which was compiled from footage from various performances over the previous two years. His live presentation is something to behold, as Jason Gargano writes in his CityBeat preview of the show:

Nils Frahm’s live performances are kind of hard to believe. He sits alone on stage, surrounded by multiple pianos and a few other gadgets. He moves back and forth between instruments, slowly building and altering the music as it unfolds, all of which is done without the use of loops or playbacks. It’s an impressive achievement, as Frahm’s sonic output is a whirl of intricately layered yet never fussy arrangements that bring to mind a meld of Steve Reich and Keith Jarrett. 

Opening the show is Brooklyn’s Dawn of Midi, an Avant Garde trio that combines elements of Jazz, Krautrock, Electronica and experimental Rock music and has also been drawing fawning critical raves. Radiolab host Jad Abumrad said of them, “I've seriously never seen anything like these guys.” 

Should be a fascinating night of music. 

Click here for more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati. 

<![CDATA[Weekend Music: Chris Forsyth, Huun Huur Tu and More]]>

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band bring their tour behind their debut studio album, the recently released Intensity Ghost, to The Comet in Northside tonight. Heart of Palm and Public Housing open the free 10 p.m. show.

Forsyth, who co-founded the experimental group peeesseye in New York around the turn of the century, is an acclaimed guitarist known for his exploratory approach and compelling skills. He fell in love with the music of Television in high school and ultimately ended up taking lessons from that legendary band’s Richard Lloyd. 

You can hear the influence of Television particularly in his work with Solar Motel Band (which was formed based on the guitarist’s acclaimed Solar Motel album from last year). Many critics have described Forsyth’s most recent all-instrumental music as a cross between Television and The Grateful Dead; Forsyth (now based in Philly) discovered the Dead while immersed in the New York experimental music scene and was immediately drawn to it, so it’s a fair comparison. Overall, it’s very engaging, hypnotic stuff.  

• Tonight and tomorrow sees the return of Ironfest, a huge two-night benefit concert in honor of late local music supporter and musician Iron Mike Davidson. This marks the fifth edition of the event since Davidson passed away in 2010. 

Ironfest V, which continues to raise funds for Davidson’s family, takes over Newport’s Southgate House Revival both nights with a lineup stacked with local talent largely (but not entirely) from the worlds of Punk and Hard Rock. Friday’s lineup includes Mad Anthony, Martin Luther and the Kings, Kill City, Vampire Weekend at Bernie’s, Sweet Ray Laurel, Valley of the Sun, Lockland Brakes, Lohed, Subsets, Mala in Se, Black Signal and many more. Saturday at Ironfest, catch The Dopamines, Moonbow, Mudpies, We are Hex, Honeyspiders, Oxboard Drain, 500 Miles to Memphis, The Blue Rock Boys, Draculas, Ethicist, Cadaver Dogs and several others. 

Click here for the full lineups. 

Tickets each night are $5 in advance (available at or $10 at the door. Showtime is 7 p.m. both nights.

• Tuvan throat singing string band Huun Huur Tu performs Saturday night at Parrish Auditorium on the Hamilton campus of Miami University.

Derek Halsey explains the unique music in his preview of the show for this week’s CityBeat (read the full preview here).

Tuvan throat singing describes the wild-sounding songs created by musicians in the southern Siberian and Mongolian Steppe region of Central Asia who, for want of a better explanation, use their throats as if they were a didgeridoo. 

Not only does it sound cool — creating multiple notes at the same time using nothing but the human voice — but historically it was a way for humans to communicate over the vast plains in that part of the world, with different styles being created to represent different tribes.

Saturday’s show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 (there are discount for seniors, students and “youth”) and can be purchased in advance here.

• Cincinnati Blues crew The Whiskey Shambles host a release show at Over-the-Rhine’s The Drinkery in honor of their debut album, Loose Change for a Broken Man. The show is a benefit for the Save the Animals Foundation (where drummer Aaron Tyree volunteers). A $5 donation is requested at the door but you can be a jerk and not pay it; it’s technically a free show. JetLab opens things up at 9 p.m. and members of local choirs MUSE and Young Professionals Choral Collective are slated to make guest appearances with the Shambles.

CityBeat’s Brian Baker spoke with the band about their origins and the new release for this week’s issue. Brian describes the album and band’s sound like this:

While Loose Change exudes a contemporary vibe, the album bears the diverse hallmarks of the best ‘70s Blues Rock albums. Like Led Zeppelin, Cream and Free before them, The Whiskey Shambles channels first generation Blues subsets like Delta, Piedmont and Hill Country, combined with the members’ unique individual experiences to conjure an edgy, atmospheric vision of 21st century Blues.

Click here to read the full feature story.

• One of Cincinnati’s best bands, The Hiders, celebrate the release of their amazing new album Totem Saturday at Northside Tavern. The show is free. Singer/songwriter Ali Edwards (former bandmate of The Hiders’ frontman Billy Alletzhauser in Ruby Vileos) opens at 10 p.m.

Click here for a full review of the great TotemYou can sample a few tracks here at The Hiders’ official site (click the “Melody” tab, then choose “Totem”).

• Unique Cincinnati Americana group The Tadcasters have released a new EP and on Saturday they’re playing Stanley’s Pub in celebration. The show features two other Roots acts that have recently issued new material — La Grange, Texas, Folk/Rock/Roots act The Youngest (supporting the new album Feral Road) and Oliver Oak, an Indie Folk sextet from Columbus, Ohio (supporting its new Sleepless Wilds release). Showtime is 9 p.m. and there’s a small cover charge at the door. 

Here is “Chaingang” from The Tadcaster’s excellent new five-song EP:

• Sunday at the Southgate House Revival, friends of veteran local musician David Rhodes Brown are throwing a party in honor of his remarkable 50 years of playing music in the area. The multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter has been a part of numerous local acts in his half-century of service, coming into regional notoriety in the early ’80s with his long-running Rockabilly/Roots band The Warsaw Falcons (who will reunite and close out Sunday’s event) and going on to play with notable Greater Cincinnati groups like The StarDevils, Magnolia Mountain and numerous others. In 2010, Brown released his guest-laden solo album Browngrass & Wildflowers, and he’s played lap steel guitar with the popular Punk Pop/Roots Rock band 500 Miles to Memphis for the past several years.

Many of Brown’s friends and current/former bandmates will perform some of his songs at the event, including Ryan Mallot, Mark Utley, Wilder, Todd Lipscomb, Gregory Burton, Elle Crash and Pike 27. More friends and bandmates (including CityBeat’s own Brian Baker and should-be Hamilton Country Commissioner Jim Tarbell) will also give Brown the “roast” treatment at the party.

Click here for more details

Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is just $5. 

Click here for more live music options this weekend and feel free to plug other shows in the comments. 

<![CDATA[Twenty Years of Music in CityBeat]]>

In honor of CityBeat’s 20th anniversary, music editor Mike Breen and music section contributor Brian Baker (both of whom have been with the paper since the first issue) did an e-chat to discuss their experiences writing about music for the past two decades, from interview horror stories to the joys of covering Cincinnati musicians. 

Mike Breen: So 20 years. We were both working (or, rather, volunteering) at Everybody’s News when we found out EN’s editor John Fox was leaving to start a new paper. I remember when he first told me, when it was still hush hush, and asked me to come aboard as the music editor while I was still in college. He pulled me aside as we were leaving the EN building after a day of work, told me (in hushed tones) about his plans and said he’d like me to be the music editor. I was excited because I believed in John’s broader vision — providing a liberal/progressive voice for the city, celebrating the arts and striving to create quality journalism — but also because I was going to finally be paid for my work. Do you remember when you first heard word about CityBeat's formation?

Brian Baker: Vividly. After John left EN, no one paid the slightest attention to me. I don't think they ran a single review of mine after his departure. At some point that following summer, John James, who'd been doing the Positively Yeah Yeah Yeah column, called me at my design day job and said John Fox wanted to have lunch to talk about something he's got planned. So the three of us met at this little seafood place on Reading Road and John (Fox) laid out the blueprint he had in mind for CityBeat. It sounded like a great idea, and my reaction was the same as yours. A byline and a check? Pinch me, I'm dreaming. 

But John offered a single caveat, and it would have rather lasting implications. He said, "I can't use you as a reviewer, I need you as a feature writer. Can you do that?" I said yes, and that really changed everything regarding my writing career. In a very tangible sense, everything that's happened to me over the past 20 years is due to John's insistence that I write features, and I owe him a great debt because of that one simple clause in our contract.

MB: I remember months before the first issue of CityBeat I spent days putting together request letters to mail out to hundreds of record labels asking to be added to their mailing lists. Which is funny to think of now — we weren’t using email and, as opposed to receiving most review copies these days as downloads, we started getting dozens of CDs (and even cassettes at that point) a week. It’s crazy to me to think about doing research for reviews and stories in the very earliest days of CityBeat; I had a handful of “encyclopedias of music” books, but mostly we had to just rely on those press kit folders, which usually had a press release, a bio and then a stack of stapled-together photocopied reviews and interviews from other outlets. Now you can literally press a button and see every review and feature story ever written about an artist. It’s certainly easier now to be lazy.

What do you think has changed the most about writing about music over the past 20 years?  

BB: No question that the internet has made the research part of our jobs a whole lot easier. And today's connectivity makes it almost (although not quite entirely) impossible for publicists to duck our requests for material and interviews. But remember tearsheets? Sending physical proof of my features and reviews to labels and publicists used to be enormously time-consuming, especially after I started picking up outlets other than CityBeat. Now it's like everything else: email a link.

Here's the thing about the new research paradigm. Back when my daughter was in 4th grade, her class and one other were doing a project on newspapers, where they split into groups, had editors and writers and each made their own version of a newspaper. Isabelle's teacher asked if I would be interested in talking to both classes about working on a real newspaper, which I happily agreed to do. The one point that I really tried to hammer home to the young journalistic minds in the group is that the internet has no editor, and you have to be incredibly careful with pulling what you think are facts from websites that may actually be offering little more than glorified opinions. In some ways, the internet has made everything incredibly easy, and in other ways, it has added in almost arcane levels of complexity that never existed before. 

As I am often fond of pointing out, computers didn't make everything better, they made everything different.

MB: We’ll move on from computer-related stuff after this, but I want to vent about internet trolls so just humor me for a sec (haha). As I’m often fond of pointing out, the best thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice. And the worst thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice.

In the earliest days, we had one computer in CityBeat’s office that had web access, so people had to share time. My earliest memory of interacting with a “reader” online was when some asshole kid sent me this scathing note about something I’d written about Goth or Industrial music. He was a dick to me, so I was a dick right back (some things never change!). He threatened to “tell my boss” the mean things I said to him, which may have been the first time I did a computer-related “LOL.” It’s weird to think of now, in a time when online trolls are just par for the course. It’s probably the thing I hate most about the job, and it was evident in my very first experience communicating with someone online about something I’d written. (I should give credit to my first “troll,” singer/songwriter/funnyman David Enright, who, since the internet was still developing and Facebook was many years away from giving voice to everyone’s vitriol, made hand-written fliers eviscerating me, CityBeat and CityBeat’s music section for being lame. He stapled them onto telephone poles all over the Clifton area. I wish I’d saved one.)

We’d always talk about how we sort of wrote in a vacuum — we’d write stuff, throw it out there and assume people were reading it, but, outside of the rare “letter to the editor” or meeting people in the flesh, we had no idea how people were reacting to the content. Now we can kind of see in real time what people are reading (online) and get instant feedback if it hits the wrong or right chord. But people seem to mostly respond only when something pisses them off, which is fine, but it’s almost always rude and insulting, which is maddening. 

Anyway, you (wisely) stay off of social media, and I imagine you are spared a lot of this more annoying feedback. But over the years, what have your communications with both subjects and readers been like? Are they only mean to me or do you get some of that too? (For the record, most artists are very cool, even if a review isn’t especially glowing, and very few are anything but kind and polite when I meet them in person.)

Also, and this is mostly for my own curiosity really, why do you avoid social media?

BB: I think I've had maybe one or two weird trollish kind of events, and in both cases I tried to reframe my case for the sake of clarification and when that went nowhere, I just surrendered, which I'm guessing is probably the money shot for most of these boners, so you're welcome. The anonymity of the internet has made self-imagined giantkillers out of intellectual/emotional pipsqueaks, and it has become an occupational hazard for those of us who would dare offer an opinion to a great unwashed mass that now has the means to respond from the bliss of their ignorance at the click of a mouse. On the other hand, it has also given us an opportunity to have fascinating conversations with people who actually relish the thrill of debating divergent opinions without having to declare a winner. A fair trade, I suppose.

My experience with the artists that I review and interview has always been, as you noted, very positive. And when I get introduced to people at shows, events, county fairs, beauty pageants and hog calling contests, and they realize I'm "that guy," they're always overwhelmingly nice, typically working up to a comment that goes, in general, "I've always loved your writing," and it's always nice to hear. A woman recently wrote in with some rather lavish praise about my online coverage of MidPoint, and her compliments were were well received by my always conflicted ego, although I was slightly bemused by this admission: "I've not read any previous articles by Mr. Baker..." So thanks for your kind words on my MidPoint reviewage, and if you're so inclined, there's 20 years of this stuff in the archive. Knock yourself out.

As for my social media blackout, I'm neither Amish nor am I a crotchety old duffer who doesn't understand the platforms and just wants these damn kids to stay out of my internet yard. My avoidance of Facebook has become something of a cause celebre; I didn't join because I couldn't see the benefit weighed against the time involved in posting/monitoring/responding, and now I'm one of a dozen people connected to the modern world who is not on Facebook. 

At least part of the reason for the rest of it is the electronic array in the Bunker is just a couple of steps above the radio that the Professor made out of two palm fronds and a coconut shell on Gilligan's Island, and my phone is the Flintstones to everyone else's Jetsons. I have, in fact, grown rather weary of swearing at my 10-year-old Motorola flip phone (I know, I know), and I will soon be upgrading to something more befitting the second decade of the new millennium. And when that happens, I will probably be tweeting and whatnot with the rest of humanity. Until then, you kids stay the hell out of my internet yard.


MB: We often have email exchanges about interviews or stories, behind the scenes stuff, in which you are so hilarious, I’m always tempted to publish them. What have been some of your more disastrous interviews (or attempts to get interviews), either from the standpoint of the conversation with artists themselves or just getting something set up? 

For me, the two that jump out both involved alleged “funny men.” I never liked Ween at all, but they were coming to town and I knew a bunch of people (particularly in the CityBeat office at the time) loved them and their publicist was bugging me to do something, so I set up an interview. Both of them were on the phone at the same time and my first question was about the heavy R&B vibe of their then-current single (one of the few songs of theirs I actually liked). For the first question, I just asked if that was a style of music they’d long loved, was it a new thing, did they have favorites — things along that line — and they just mocked me and gave me some mumbled, rude, nonsense answer. I hung up on them (only time I’ve ever done that) and just did a story on someone else. 

The other “worst interview” was with Adam Sandler. He was doing a quick phoner with me before his show at Riverbend, which was more of a music-oriented thing than stand-up. I’d been having a bad day and when I called, the publicist couldn’t find him — she’d forgotten that we were supposed to chat. So after he had talked to probably 100 reporters and radio stations that day, the publicist finally tracked him down and I got a few minutes with him and, while he was incredibly nice and polite, he literally gave me a bunch of yes and no answers. I get that the circumstances were weird and understand that comedians aren’t always “on” during phone interviews with altweekly writers, but it still bummed me out that he was such a bad interview subject. 

So — horror stories for you? 

BB: Oh boy, we're really opening up the crazy box, huh? Honestly, I think I've had more contentious situations with publicists in trying to schedule interviews than I've had with the artists themselves. Sometimes it seems as though flacks think they're on a Secret Service detail to shield their clients from publicity rather than arrange it. There's the never-got-your-call/email/passenger-pigeon ploy, the four-weeks-of-contact-then-schedule-an-ambush-interview-an-hour-before-it-happens gambit and the ever popular ignore-them-and-they'll-go-away device. That said, the majority of publicists I've worked with have been fantastic, and a few of them have become friends that I have shared private life details and long conversations with over the course of our professional relationship. Again, a fair trade. But a few bad apples sure stink up the joint.

If you have copies of those emails, you have a thorough diary of my trials and tribulations with labels and publicists, and I know there are probably stories you're hoping I'll touch on, but I hesitate at actually calling out specific publicists for their attitudes, because I've found that sometimes it's an institutional mindset established by an agency. There are a few flacks who wouldn't give me the time of day when they were representing big names for big companies, but that have bent over backwards to get the job done at smaller agencies. Perspective is everything.

Worst interviews … I’ve been relatively lucky in that department, although I've had a few sort of go off the rails. I was trying to get an interview with Linda Perry, who was coming through on some lower tier festival in the late '90s, and she blew off a couple of scheduled attempts, but the day before deadline, her publicist finally tracked her down and gave me a phone number to reach her; she was shooting pool in the hotel bar where she was staying. I called the number, the bartender answered, then bellowed, "Is there a Linda Perry here?" She answered with a more than curt, "Who the fuck is this?" I was tempted to respond, "I'm the guy they sent to help you with your career. Want to play?" But I introduced myself and we got on with it. At that point, she was more than a little pissed with her label and their lack of support for her first (and I think only) solo album, so a good deal of our time was devoted to that subject. But I finally got her off that ledge and we got about 10 good minutes in before the bartender said, "This is a business line, you can't talk on it." So she said, "I'm heading up to my room, I'll call you right back." Never heard from her again, but I had enough to write a decent piece. I think we went to press with the story and the day it hit the street, the festival was cancelled for low ticket sales.

The other one that was kind of weird was Reverend Horton Heat. I called him at the appointed time, and he seemed a little distracted. I asked one question, and he talked in non-answering circles for about a minute and then shouted, "I can't do this right now!" and hung up. I called the publicist and told her what had happened; she was horrified and said she'd get it sorted out. She called me back about five minutes later and said, "He's having some argument with his manager and he wants you to call him back in three hours." This was back when I was working full time and doing interviews on my lunch hour. I said, "Okay, I'll call him back." So I went back to work for two and a half hours and then beat ass back home. When I got him on the phone the second time, he was completely apologetic and we had a great conversation. I got a lot of yes/no from J. Mascis when I talked to him, but I kept working him until he opened up a bit and it turned out to be fine.

Locally, one of the wildest was with Birdhouse, a Pop/Rock trio in the Raisins/psychodots vein. It was early in CityBeat's history, and you hadn't actually given me an assignment, you just said to just go ahead and do the interview with them in advance so it would be in the can when we needed it. We met at Arlin's, it was a beautiful night, summer maybe, and it was clear from the start, these guys were into anarchy. It was like trying to interview the Three Stooges on angel dust. It was fun, to be sure, but I don't know how much of it would have been worthwhile from a journalistic point of view. At one point, Gregg Martini and Jeff Abbott got up to hit the men's room, grabbed my microcassette off the table and took it into the bathroom with them. The actual feature was never assigned, and I got busy with subsequent real work; to this day, I have no idea what they said or did on or to that tape. Maybe I should get dusted and listen to it.

Comedians have been some of my best interviews (not all of them for CityBeat, of course); Lewis Black, Sam Kinison (who I actually made laugh, maybe one of the high points of my life), Bill Maher and David Cross. I had a great chat with Cross, but when it was winding down, I was apprehensive about carrying out my editor's assignment, which was to ask him to name his personal top five comedy albums. I felt like this was a pretty lame line of questioning, and I said so. "Yeah, that's pretty terrible,” Cross concurred. "How about if I give you my top five mustards?" Brilliant, really.

MB: OK, let’s move it back to a more positive note. What have been your favorite interviews in your time at CityBeat

Some of my favorites: Talking with Ken Andrews from the band Failure, whose album Fantastic Planet had recently come out and I was obsessed with. I had a huge heroin problem at the time, and it felt like every song on that album was about addiction, but I was also self-aware enough to know that it could have just been me projecting my experience onto it (like how every love song on the radio is about your exact situation when you’re in the middle of a breakup). Ken and I had a great talk about the band and the album, and then I brought up the addiction theme. He paused and I thought, “Oh shit, I was just imagining things,” but then he carefully said something like, “Yes, that’s true that it’s a theme. Certain members of the band have been going through addiction issues.” He acted like it had been the first time he’d been asked about it (it’s since kind of a well-known fact), so I felt kind of proud to have brought it up (and relieved I wasn’t totally insane). That’s always a great moment in an interview — when a subject thinks you “get it,” and they are a little more at ease and open up a bit more (I had in-person chats with Billy Corgan, John and Exene from X and Iggy Pop — pre-CityBeat — that were good examples of this and will always be my favorite interviews).

Another great one was talking to The Ass Ponys backstage at Bogart’s (can’t remember but they may have been opening for Throwing Muses) right around the time they’d signed with A&M Records. They’re just such incredibly nice people and also some of the funniest men I’ve ever met. I just remember it being a great chat. I’ve really enjoyed talking to local musicians for cover stories, because you can chat for a bit longer and get to know people a little better (Bad Veins and 500 Miles to Memphis are two that pop to mind immediately). 

And every time I interview local legend Rob Fetters, I revert to the 13-year-old raisins fanatic I was in junior high. Rob’s incredibly nice, thoughtful and funny, so he puts me at ease, but, to this day, when I think, “If Rob Fetters saw me on the street he’d say, ‘Hi,’ and probably have a quick chat with me,” it’s always a “pinch me” moment. Being able to know guys like that (not that we’re buddies or anything, but just to know those people in any capacity) has been one of the greatest things to happen in my 20 years at CityBeat. That and getting to watch The Bears and The Afghan Whigs soundcheck at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremonies they played.

What have been some of you favorite interviews/experiences from working for CityBeat these past two decades?

BB: Iggy Pop? I'm wildly jealous. My teenage shortlist of things to accomplish in life was to smoke a joint with Todd Rundgren, get a guitar lesson from Bill Nelson, play golf with Iggy Pop and sit in a room and stare at Frank Zappa. As an adult, I had to settle for merely interviewing Todd and Bill, thrilling nonetheless. And my jealousy extends to your Ken Andrews interview, and my sympathy to the obvious problem you shared. I have a close family member going through that addiction cycle and it is a pain that knows no depth. I'm glad you came out the other end, my friend.

And I'm right there with you on Rob Fetters. A prince among men and a guitarist's guitarist. Just after moving to Cincinnati in 1982, and at a time when I was missing home and my son and family and friends, and seriously contemplating a move back to Michigan, the couple I was staying with and working for took me up to Shipley's to see The Raisins. I was transformed and my faith that I had come here for a purpose was restored. Every conversation I've had with Rob, and any of the musicians in his orbit at any given moment, has been memorable and life affirming.

Favorite interviews … man, that's like picking your favorite child. I've gotten to talk to so many of my musical heroes; the aforementioned Rundgren and Nelson, Joan Armatrading, Peter Gabriel, Jorma Kaukonen, Russell Mael  from Sparks, Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones, Cheap Trick madman Rick Nielsen (who once flipped me off at Bogart's for taking his picture; I had a photo pass), Mountain guitar god Leslie West, the loquacious Peter Wolf from the J. Geils Band (who said to me, "Sincerity is the most important thing in this industry, and when you learn how to fake that, buddy, you got it made..."), the ever brilliant Jules Shear, Tommy Keene, Alejandro Escovedo, Aimee Mann, Steve Wynn, Frank Black, Marianne Faithfull, Alice Cooper (two days after 9/11; we were scheduled the day of the attacks, but obviously pushed it back) and newer icons like The Shins' James Mercer, all of The New Pornographers, Joe Pernice, Mike Doughty, Ryan Adams, Rosanne Cash, Bob Pollard (who I reminisced with from his days as a customer at Wizard Records, when we knew him as "Bob from Dayton") and an unnameable parade of so many others. I've gotten so much from each and every interaction, it's hard to point at any of them as favorites. 

And all of my local interviews have been outstanding; again, I vote with you on the Chuck Cleaver ticket. Trying to distill the fabulous chaos that has erupted during every Wussy interview down to a 1,000-word feature is like trying to hammer mercury into a bust of George Washington. We have the absolute best music scene in the country here in Cincinnati, and it's proven every time I sit down with its artists to seriously (and not so seriously) talk about their craft and their dedication. I loves all my music peeps here.

So rather than favorites, maybe I should call out a couple of really memorable moments. One was with the amazing Chuck Cleaver, but it wasn't an interview. I happened to sit down next to him at a CityBeat summer picnic. The year before, the first full year of the paper's operation, I'd done a story on Freedy Johnston; after we'd finished our interview, he asked what paper this was going in and when he heard Cincinnati, he said, "Oh, you guys have The Ass Ponys." I confirmed the fact, and Freedy mentioned that Chuck was his favorite new songwriter. That seemed like a pretty cool quote to include, so I wrote it into the piece. When Chuck and I were introduced at the picnic table, he stopped for a beat and then said, "You wrote the Freedy Johnston piece last year, right?" I said that I had, and Chuck said, "Thanks for that, man, it meant a lot to me." I said, "Well, Freedy was the one who said it, but I accept your thanks on his behalf." Chuck gave me a classic Chuck look, one that I have seen many times over the years, and said, "Duh. I know he said it. But how long did you talk to him? Half an hour? 45 minutes? And how much of that interview did you use in the actual story? Probably not very much. So you chose to put in that bit about Freedy talking about me. You chose. And that's why I'm thanking you. You." And that was perhaps the most important lesson I've every learned about the responsibility involved in doing what we do, the decisions we make as far as the narrative and the direction of the stories we write. I think about that every time I come to a crossroad in a piece I'm writing.

The other wild moment was in 2001, when I was still gainfully employed full time and doing my interviews on my lunch hours. I was supposed to talk to Lucinda Williams for a piece on her Essence album; a couple of earlier attempts at the interview had fallen through and our third attempt was my last chance before deadline. I was a little intimidated, as she has been known to hang up on journalists who she found lacking for whatever reason, and we were at the tail end of the promotional cycle for Essence, so she'd likely heard every question I would ask. After a couple of tries, I got her on the phone and she immediately asked if I could call her back in 10 minutes. I said no problem and hung up. Panicking, I went through my questions and numbered them from first to last in order of importance, because I figured I now would have 20 minutes to talk to her, since interviews are typically booked in 30 minute blocks and the next guy would be calling at the bottom of the hour. When I called Lucinda back, I blew through my questions, and she answered everything in the 20-minute span that we had. I caught my breath and said, "Well, I know you've probably got more of these things to do so I'll let you go." She said, "Nope, I took care of what I needed to do in the 10 minutes you gave me. You're all I've got on my calendar … let's go." And I didn't have a single question left. 

So I immediately started sifting through the questions, remembering her answers and thinking about what I would have asked in follow-up if I'd thought I had the time. We talked for another 40 minutes, and I finally had to bail because I had to get back to my day job. Lucinda said in closing, "This might be the best interview I've done for this album. I didn't feel like I was being interrogated, I felt like I was talking with someone who liked what I do and was interested in it. You're really good at this." My creative ego swelled to Muhammad Ali-like proportions and I went back to work walking on air. 

An hour later, the human resources director tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could go down to one of the conference rooms for what I thought might be a brainstorming meeting but instead turned out to be my last day on the job. I walked in, the door was shut behind me and I was greeted by the president of the company, who informed me that my position had been eliminated and I could come back in the morning to clean out my cubicle and after an exit interview, I was walked out the door. All the way home, Lucinda's words were ringing in my ears — “You're really good at this.” When I arrived, I got my wife's attention (I didn't want to drop the bomb in front of our daughter) and told her I'd been fired. She panicked, naturally, and asked what I thought I would do. "I'm not really sure just yet," I said honestly, and then, God love her, she said, "What about writing? That seems to be going pretty well lately." 

And so began my ongoing experience in full time freelance journalism. Ups and downs to be sure, but the downs have all been economic, while the ups have been the privilege of being able to have conversations with people who make music about their work and their lives and their feelings and whatever is on their minds. It doesn't get much better than that.

MB: Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how Cincinnati’s music scene has changed in the past 20 years. It’s hard to get my head around it because I think the quality and quantity of musicians seems about the same. I get downloads more than CDs now … and I no longer get cassette releases and demos. The internet is everything. But other than that …

But there does seem to be a bit more audience support for local original artists these days. I’m always amazed when I go to a few different music-related events in one night and there are huge crowds at all of them. It’s like, “Where have these people been?” While there are certainly low turnouts for shows still, the amount seems less these days. Original local music doesn’t seem to hold the same stigma as it did when CityBeat began. Back then, it really felt like, for the general population, if you mentioned going to see a local original band, they’d look at you like you were crazy or make a sour face. It’s been CityBeat’s mission from the start to support local original music, so that was tough and a little frustrating in the old days. It was always mind-boggling to me because I’d loved many local artists (from The Raisins to SS-20 and Human Zoo to The Libertines and Afghan Whigs, who, of course, went national eventually) as much as any national act long before I started writing about local music. To me, having something of that high quality right in our own backyard made it even more alluring.

I don’t know how much credit we deserve for bolstering support for local musicians — I’m sure easy access to fans through social media, more supportive venues and the general growth of downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Northside and other areas has a lot to do with it — but hopefully by writing about local artists right next to and in the same way we wrote about national acts had at least a tiny something to do with the changing perceptions. 

I know for a while I primarily had you write about the national touring acts coming to town, but in at least the past decade, I’ve put you on a lot more local musician stories — I think you really excel at them because you get to sit and chat in person vs. just doing a 10-minute phoner and fishing for quotes from the transcripts. 

Anyway, any thoughts on how local music has changed in the past 20 years? 

BB: Clearly the advent of social media has made its mark on the local music landscape, with posts about where people are (and where other people should be) conceivably driving up attendance numbers. In my book, it doesn't matter how people come to be at a show as long as they're at the show. But I readily agree that we are certainly in the mix as far as CityBeat having a discernible impact on hipping the community to music they should hear and bands they should be following, particularly at the local level. And you make an excellent point about the way the paper has, from the very start, covered local bands with the same depth and passion that has typified our national coverage.

I still have opportunities to cover national acts, but I'm grateful in so many ways that you chose to shift my focus to the local scene. It was a harder beat for me to cover when I was working full time, because I put in so many overtime hours, and my daughter was born four months before CityBeat was launched, and I was writing for a half dozen other outlets outside of the area. It was madness. But I would also point out that my very first published feature in CityBeat was on the local band Lazy, and I was thrilled to be doing a face to face interview with a band, something I hadn't done since writing for The Entertainer in the '80s. It just happened that my writing took me on a path to a handful of small, nationally distributed magazines, and I began making connections at that level, and CityBeat was able to benefit from those relationships. Once I started writing freelance full time, I had a great deal more freedom, in terms of time and energy, to explore and embrace the scene that I had always loved but had to experience through the lens of everything else that took precedence in my life. I like to think I've made up for lost time.

As far as the physical changes in the scene over the past 20 years, I would imagine that you're probably right as far as the number of bands in the scene and the musical proficiency of said bands remaining fairly consistent. I think the thing that has changed the most is the local scene's ability to translate their talent to the recorded medium, and that's a change that has occurred at every local level across the country and around the world. A lot of really great bands back in the day could only afford enough studio time to crank out two songs for a 7-inch or a few more for an EP, and they weren't always mixed properly and weren't necessarily the best representation of a band's true sonic fingerprint. 

These days, local studios are every bit as sophisticated, in gear and personnel, as their counterparts on either coast and a fair amount of bands have invested in good mics and nice laptops and can record tracks in their basements that do not bear the technical limitations of basements past. Once that professional bar was cleared, it paved the way for more radio exposure which led to a higher profile and greater fan bases and more outside interest in our little big scene. I think that a lot of those adverse reactions to the idea of local music in the '80s and '90s were holdovers from a time when the local scene was perceived as being populated by either cover bands with no greater ambitions than to be human jukeboxes churning out the hits of the day or true original talents whose gifts were lost in badly tracked recordings and the poor acoustics of clubs whose only aim was to have the highest possible body count.

And I would also reiterate a point that I have made consistently about the Cincinnati music scene over the three decades that I have been witness to it. I sincerely believe that the greatest components of the music community in this area are the camaraderie and cooperation between bands here that does not exist in other, more cutthroat scenes in other parts of the country, as well as the fact that so many people in the greater Cincinnati scene have been inspired by its artists and bands to pick up instruments and make their own unique kind of music, not a weak copy of someone they love, but a blazingly original hybrid of their influences (local, regional, national and international) and their own singular perspectives. That is what I have always loved and will always love about the music and musicians in and around Cincinnati.

MB: So, so true about the originality of so much of local music. It’s been like that seemingly forever. And those are the bands/artists who are still remembered and whose music endures. The ones that did start just to mimic the sound du jour and get a record deal seemed to fade away pretty quickly. I never really connected with those kinds of bands because it seemed like their goal was more to get the hell out of Cincinnati and be superstars. 

So to wrap things up, I’d just like to thank you for being such a great partner in creating the music section of CityBeat every week. I hope you know how much I appreciate your willingness to take on almost any project, your excellent “making deadline” track record and your quality work for what admittedly isn’t the greatest freelance pay in the land (but it beats Everybody’s News’, right?). You’ve been a hugely important part of the paper for its entire existence and I’ve not only enjoyed working with you, I’ve learned a lot from you from a writing standpoint. 

You got another 20 years in you? 

BB: When Fox told me that he was bringing you on as Music Editor, I knew that he was serious about making music a priority in CityBeat because he'd made a damn good decision at the top of the food chain. I would never have bet that the two of us would still be working together on a weekly basis a couple of decades later, but I couldn't be happier that it has come to pass. And that learning thing goes both ways, my friend. You've gifted me with uncountable assignments on artists that I had virtually no knowledge of prior to writing about them in our pages and I've never been disappointed, in the music or the conversation I've had with the people who made it. The pleasure and the honor has been all mine.

20 more years? Hell to the yeah. With the amount of new music being released every day and the technological sophistication along the distribution chain, there's no lack of things to cover and ways to make it happen, and with the advances in medical science, there may actually be a way to keep me animated and engaged for that long or longer. As I say to my wife on a fairly regular basis, if you're willing to keep me around, I'm in for the long haul. Thanks to you and everyone at the best Beat in town for the past — and the next — 20 years. 

And yes, that is both a threat and a promise.

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: Avi Buffalo, San Fermin and More]]>

Avi Buffalo plays a free show tonight at MOTR Pub at 10 p.m. Cincinnati’s Founding Fathers open. 

Avi Buffalo began when Californian teenager Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg began home-recording songs in high school. After completing high school, he had a full band and an offer from esteemed indie label SubPop Records quickly followed. Avi Buffalo’s sublime, ethereal Indie Pop wowed critics and fans alike upon the release of the band’s self-titled SubPop debut in 2010. There’s a sense of wonder, romance and mystery in Zahner-Isenberg songs, something even more evident on the group’s highly anticipated sophomore full-length, At Best Cuckold, which was released in early September and drew even higher praise from critics. Fans of The Shins and Grandaddy will appreciate the wispy, beautifully melodic genius of Avi Buffalo’s songs, which caress the eardrums as they burrow into the listener’s cranium. 

• Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s Indie Chamber Pop project San Fermin returns to Cincinnati tonight for a show at the new Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. The ensemble performed one of its first shows ever at last year’s MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati; despite their debut album not being out yet, the concert still sold out. 

Check out Jason Gargano’s interview with Ludwig-Leone from last week's CityBeat here.

Tonight’s show at the Woodward kicks off at 8:30 p.m. with a performance by Mikhael Paskalev. Tickets are $17.

• AltPop singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson plays the Taft Theatre tonight. Chris Koza opens the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30.

Michelson has built a large fan base and experienced chart success since her self-released debut album, Slow the Rain, came out in the middle of the last decade; her next album, Girls and Boys, was her breakthrough, garnering mainstream attention after various tracks were used on TV shows (most notably, Grey’s Anatomy). Despite offers from big corporate labels, Michaelson has remained largely a DIY artist, putting albums out through her own Cabin 24 label (though she now has distribution through the notoriously artist-friendly Mom + Pop Music imprint). 

Here is the recently unveiled video for “Afterlife,” the second single from this year’s Lights Out album. The new LP was her most collaborative yet; written and recorded after bouts with illnesses and other issues that left her in a dark place, Michelson collaborated with a range of producers and fellow songwriters.

Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight. 

<![CDATA[Wussy to Make National TV Debut This Month]]>

Last month, several photos featuring the members of Cincinnati’s Wussy hanging out at the CBS studios in New York made their way to the band’s social media accounts. Turns out the band wasn’t just taking a studio tour; they were invited guests!

Wussy filmed an in-studio session and were interviewed for a feature on the band that will appear on CBS This Morning Nov. 29. The date was revealed on this past Saturday’s CBS This Morning. It will be the band’s network television debut, the latest milestone for Wussy, which has seen its national profile continually rise gradually over the past several years. 

CBS This Morning’s Saturday edition has been doing weekly musician profiles for a while now on a segment called “Saturday Sessions.” The show has featured artists like The Head and the Heart, Trampled by Turtles, Delta Spirit, Gaslight Anthem and Counting Crows in recent months (British musicians Johnny Marr and James play the next two “Saturday Sessions,” respectively). 

Here are the Cincinnati natives of The National performing a session for the show earlier this year.

Wussy plays the new Woodward Theater on New Year's Eve

<![CDATA[Music Tonight: The Soil & the Sun, The Revivalists and More]]>

The brand new Over-the-Rhine music venue The Woodward Theater had a public open house event this past Friday and now it’s time for the venue’s first official show. The Woodward — brought to you by the people who run MOTR Pub, which is just across Main Street from the new club — hosts acclaimed Grand Rapids, Mich., ensemble The Soil & the Sun tonight. The progressive, gorgeously ethereal Indie Chamber Folk group is joined by Wisconsin Country/Folk group Count this Penny for the 8 p.m. show. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is just $5. 

For more CityBeat Woodward coverage, click here and here

Here is a clip of The Soil & the Sun performing a session for the Audiotree series. 

• Eclectic drummer/composer Dylan Ryan brings his Dylan Ryan/Sand project to Northside’s The Comet tonight. Ryan’s exploratory Jazz Rock trio will be joined by the Dave McDonnell Group of the free, 10 p.m. show. Ryan (now based in L.A.) and McDonnell (now based in Cincinnati) are both members of the “Prog Jazz” ensemble Herculaneum. 

Click here for a full preview of tonight’s show.

Here’s “Tree, Voices, Saturn,” a track from Sand’s second album, Circa, which was released on Cuneiform Records in late September. 

• Diverse New Orleans Rock band The Revivalists perform at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater tonight. The show starts at 8 p.m. with special guests Black Cadillacs. Tickets are $17 at the door. 

Click here for a preview of The Revivalists’ show from CityBeat’s Brian Baker. 

Here’s the official video for “Criminal” from The Revivalists’ City of Sound LP, which was reissued by the band’s new label home, Wind-Up Records, earlier this year. 

• One of the cool things about The Woodward Theater is that when shows there end, there will always be something going on across the street at MOTR Pub, which typically presents shows at 10 p.m. (and never charges a cover). Tonight’s a great opportunity to test that out as each venue has a great band performing. SubPop recording artists Jaill play MOTR tonight, after the Soil & the Sun show across the street, with guests Smut

Formed more than a decade ago in Milwaukee, Wis., Jaill spent their formative years self-recording and releasing a variety of music on their own or for small labels. In 2008, the band put out its debut full-length, There’s No Sky (Oh My My) — which was reissued on Burger Records (the label also released a collection of early recordings called Cranes last year) — and caught the attention of SubPop.

The band signed with SubPop for 2010’s That’s How We Burn and then in 2012 released the magnificent Traps, a great representation of the group’s jangly, highly melodic Indie Pop. Pitchfork gave the album a positive review, comparing the band to Violent Femmes and the dB’s and describing it as “idiosyncratic pop-rock appealing to geeky outsiders and scene lifers.” I’d say it has a far wider appeal than that. 

Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight.