CityBeat Blogs - Music News http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-35-58.html <![CDATA[Cincinnati at the VMAs]]>

I tried to watch last night's Video Music Awards on MTV, but it was such an awkward and confusing clusterfuck, I couldn’t take much of it, flipping through for a few moments before moving on out of embarrassment for the people on the screen. I usually like when awards shows are a little chaotic (and the VMAs are known for their often-desperate attempts to be “not your mama’s awards show”). And I actually have always enjoyed the pop-culture pageantry of awards shows in general. But on last night’s VMAs, the annoyance factor was so high, I couldn’t even watch it on a “so bad you can’t look away” level. It made me anxious and uncomfortable, like watching someone fumbling over their words and breaking down while giving a speech in public (kind of like Kanye on last night's show). 

It wasn’t really even the performances that made it so unwatchable (most were pretty solid for what they were). It was all of the in-between absurdity that made it so cringe-worthy.


Speaking of performances, some Cincinnati artists did well on the big stage. Walk the Moon has become so experienced with these kinds of high-profile appearances that it wasn’t surprising the band’s umpteenth performance of “Shut Up and Dance” was flawless. Airing during the opening of the pre-show “rainbow carpet” portion, I found myself thinking (as I do whenever I hear the hit on the radio), “You know, they have other songs, including a new single?” “Shut Up” was considered a “song of the summer” contender, though it’s been on the radio for like 15 years (OK, it was released as a single in September of 2014, but still). Then the band played the new single, “Different Colors”! And MTV promptly cut them off. (Even “Shut Up” was interrupted mid-song so the pre-show hosts could introduce the program, the clumsiness of which ended up being indicative of the overall mess the VMAs turned out to be.)



The weirder Cincinnati-related appearance came during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ performance of their new single, “Downtown.” I was not aware of the guest artists on the song (OK, I was not aware they had a new song), so I turned it on just as Hip Hop legends Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz were rapping while walking down the street, thinking it was some cool old-school tribute the awards show was presenting. Then Macklemore came on and I reached for the remote, still unable to figure out what was going on. Then Eric Nally from late Cincinnati greats Foxy Shazam joined in, singing the chorus and doing some of his trademark stage moves and I officially thought I was just having a dream. 


Nally did a great job and he caused a lot of buzz online, mostly of the “Who was that guy?” variety (when the single was released last week, a bunch of idiots rehashed the “Eric Nally is racist” stories from back in 2013 when Foxy Shazam released the single, “I Like It.”)



It’s weird mash-up of a song, parts of which I like, while other parts I find tremendously aggravating. Which is kind of what the VMAs were. Is this the present state of popular youth culture? Throw a bunch of unrelated stuff together, put it in a blender and then just stare at the blender, not caring or knowing what the end result is? 


MTV/Viacom had something called the O Music Awards for a few years recently, honoring things like “Favorite Fuck Yeah Tumblr,” “Favorite Animated Gif,” “Best Tweet” and “Best Artist With A Cameraphone.” The O Awards ceremony seemed unscripted and filmed without any director whatsoever. It doesn’t appear the O awards are still a thing; perhaps last night’s VMAs were a sign that the network is turning its long-running awards program into the Os? 


The VMAs were largely just a big WTF moment that people would talk about/complain about/make fun of online. Which is probably exactly what MTV was going for and, scarily, perhaps the shape of youth-oriented entertainment to come. 


]]>
<![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[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.


]]>
<![CDATA[Beyond Idol Chatter: The Music/Day Job Balancing Act]]>

For some musicians, their 9-to-5 is little more than a means to an end. Pizza and guitar strings don’t pay for themselves, after all. Others take pride in their work, both on stage and in the “real world,” but view them as two parts of a whole.

But for Jess Lamb, her twin identities as a musician and teacher are deeply intertwined. She works hard in both professional avenues and has put a large amount of effort into maintaining them, even during her post-American Idol influx of activities. It’s a balancing act with some unexpected complications that she is still learning to walk gracefully. But for Lamb, there is no other choice.


“I think that the public has seen me as a teacher and I don’t want my name to be tainted by this other persona, this other career, this other life. So I don’t want to be slosh drunk. I don’t want to be like Jim Morrison in my experimenting with life. But at the same time there’s a whole other vibe with playing in venues, playing in bars and it is very different from the teacher thing,” Lamb explains.


Before Idol, Lamb’s work as a musician and an ESL teacher were more easily separated. Nowadays, with the added exposure that Idol has brought to her and her late-night performances around town, she has had to go to greater lengths to protect the sanctity of both. A shot of Jameson may not be thrown back with the same careless abandon as a few months prior and photo ops are utterly devoid of the counter-cultural staples of, say, a middle finger or devil horns. This isn’t to say that Lamb was or is a reckless partier at night and a quiet bookworm during the day.


Rather, what happens at night can bleed into the daylight hours and her work in one aspect of life can’t compromise the other. She has to take into account who her new audience members may be and how they learned of Lamb. Being a teacher requires maintaining professionalism at all times. When a teacher is shown on national television, keeping that even-headed mentality all day and all night becomes even more important.


Considering all the time that Lamb has spent on her music after her Idol run, some may wonder why she doesn’t put the teaching on hold for the time being. Between the Idol recaps she does regularly for Fox 19 since leaving the show, the myriad interviews, the residencies at Japps in Over-the-Rhine and Jags in West Chester (as well as other shows), the studio work and all the other opportunities that have arisen, finding time for teaching is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, Lamb has cut down her teaching work to roughly four hours a week, doing basic lesson planning and similar activities. But she still carves out time for her teaching for a very important purpose.


“I don’t do it for the money, it’s not sustaining me. I do it for my spirit. It’s for something that feels important, I don’t know that what I’m doing all the time feels important,” Lamb says.


She views being a teacher and an entertainer as two professions with two different contributions to society. Music and teaching both give something back to the community at large, but she feels that teaching impacts the public on a much larger scale. While singing in a smoky bar reaches a small amount of people, teaching has a much larger reach.

Ultimately, Lamb is a musician and teacher in equal measure. At this point, the music is taking more of her time, but she is determined to not let it take all of it.


“I don’t want to cancel out one or the other with a teacher persona that’s too square or a Rock star persona that’s too crazy and unstable,” Lamb says.


For Lamb, finding a mix of her two professions and passions is an ever-present struggle. When Idol rocketed her music to the forefront, she has had to constantly work to balance it out with activities that are equally as fulfilling. It hasn’t been an easy process by any means but one that she sees as absolutely necessary. 


Just don’t be offended if she turns down a shot of whiskey next time you run into her in the Main St. district.


Nick Grever is checking in periodically with Cincinnati-based American Idol contest Jess Lamb about her post-Idol life. Check out previous "Beyond Idol Chatter" posts here. Visit jesslamb.com for music, show dates and more.

]]>
<![CDATA[Heartless Bastards Announce New Album, Two Cincy Shows]]>

Former Cincinnati-based (now Austin, Texas headquartered) band Heartless Bastards have announced the release of its fifth album, Restless Ones, on the Partisan Records imprint on June 16. It’s the band’s first new full-length since 2012’s acclaimed Arrow, the group’s debut for Partisan. (The band took local group Wussy on tour after Arrow's release.)


The Bastards, who recently opened some arena concert dates for Rock music legend Bob Seger, also announced a string of tour dates beginning in June that will bring them back to Cincinnati for a two-night stand at Woodward Theater.  The band plays the newly remodeled/reopened Over-the-Rhine venue June 25-26 with opener Craig Finn (frontman for The Hold Steady).

A limited number of tickets for the Woodward shows are available starting today at noon through a special songkick.com presale. Click here for details


]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Walk the Moon on 'The Ellen Show']]>

Yesterday, Cincinnati Alt Pop foursome Walk the Moon continued its promotional blitz behind its sophomore major label album, Talking is Hard, with a performance on Ellen DeGeneres' popular daytime talk/variety show. After being introduced by DeGeneres as a "great Rock & Roll band from Cincinnati, Ohio," the group played its single "Shut Up and Dance" and singer Nicholas Petricca ran into the crowd to rock out with audience members.

Coincidentally, another Cincinnati-born band, The Afghan Whigs, appeared on national television the night before, performing "The Lottery" from their latest album on late night's Jimmy Kimmel Live. Watch it here and a web-exclusive performance of "I Am Fire," with a dash of Fleetwod Mac's "Tusk," here. WtM also played Kimmel late last year when the new album was released.

Walk the Moon will play a hometown show at Bogart's on April 1 (like many shows on the band's current tour, it has already sold out), then returns this summer to play the Bunbury Music Festival in early June (tickets available here).

]]>
<![CDATA[Bad Veins Prepare for 'The Mess Remade' Release]]>

On Tuesday, March 17, Cincinnati duo Bad Veins will see its latest album, The Mess Remade, released nationally. The 13-track effort isn't an entirely "new" album, but a re-recorded/remastered version of Bad Veins' sophomore full-length, The Mess We've Made, which came out in 2012 on the Modern Outsider label. The record — which features new cover art, as well — comes after some big changes in lead Vein Benjamin Davis' band — the departure of original drummer Sebastien Schultz (who now plays with local Indie Pop group Multimagic), the addition of new drummer Jake Bonta and a new label home, the third nationally-distributed label in Bad Veins' lifespan (its self-titled debut was released on Dangerbird Records).

The Mess Remade is being released on the Dynamite Music imprint, a new company founded by Marco Liuzzo and Mitch Davis (son of music biz legend Clive Davis). The label is partnered with Caroline, which is part of Capitol Records and Universal Music Distribution. Bad Veins are the company's second announced signees, following Pop singer Ryan Cabrera.

The Mess Remade includes two new tracks, "I Shut My Heart Down" and a cover of The Muppets' classic "Rainbow Connection" (Davis performed the song solo to open the 2013 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony). The early release of "Rainbow Connection" in January and last month's puppet-filled music video release (premiered at The AV Club) caught some buzz online. The album also features a shorter "radio edit" of the leadoff track "Kindness," as well as the original 5-minutes-plus version.

Here is a video clip for the new "Kindness":


And here's the "Rainbow Connection" clip:


Noisetrade.com has a four-track sampler of Remade available here if you can't wait a week.

Find more about Bad Veins here.


]]>
<![CDATA[Beyond Idol Chatter: Career Goals Well Within Reach]]>

Jess Lamb’s initial performance for the judges on American Idol’s bus tour was undeniably a show stopper. It wrapped up the episode and introduced America to one of Cincinnati’s brightest talents, while also moving her on to the Hollywood round after impressing the judges. Her second televised appearance, a group rendition of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” was considered one of the stronger performances of the Idol Groups round. 

That is why it shocked many viewers when she was quietly cut from the show after the performance. 

Allegations quickly followed blaming Lamb’s cut on comments that Jennifer Lopez had made regarding the age of some of the contestants, due to Lamb being one of the older performers in the competition (she is only 29). If there’s anything that Lamb would like to set straight it is this: Don’t believe everything you hear. And this is far from the end of the road for her.

“Honestly, I got nothing but really awesome comments from [Lopez]. No bad comments, nothing,” Lamb explains.

Lamb is still unsure as to exactly why she didn’t move on to the next round — American Idol never provided her with a reason — but she does not believe that it was Lopez’s comments or her age that caused the cut. Lamb frequently questioned the editing of the episode and the presentation of Lopez’s comments while discussing the episode and the ensuing fallout.

While the cut was undeniably a blow to Lamb, it is one she is quickly recovering from. In fact, when the episode aired, she wasn’t even able to watch because she was working on one of her myriad new projects at the time.

“I’m busier since Idol than I ever have been. I’m working with Bootsy [Collins], writing with his backup singer, talking with his wife about a project she wants me to work on, preparing for [record label] showcases,” Lamb says.

While Idol’s promised record contract is now out of reach, that hasn’t slowed down Lamb’s work towards her goal of signing with a label and releasing a full-length album. In fact, Idol gave her the exposure that she needed to land on the radar of several big names within the Pop music community. “Grammy-award winner” is descriptor not often connected to people working with local music acts, but it applies in this instance. (Lamb can’t divulge too much information about certain facets of her industry interactions, so vague hints will have to do for now.)

Details are still being discussed and Lamb is still under Idol’s contractual obligations restricting her from signing with any labels before the show is over and a set period of time has passed since its finale. But Lamb is making the best of the time between now and May.

“I’m just trying to do what I’m legally able to do,” Lamb says.

While American Idol continues its search for the next American pop star, Lamb is determined to grow her career using many of the tools that she’s been using for years. She’s constantly attempting to break into new markets, make music with new people and perform for new audiences. The only difference is that she now has a national TV show appearance to help with promotion and publicity. The details of her release from American Idol may be shrouded in a bit of controversy, but ultimately what will endure are her fans’ memories of her performances. It is those memories that will be reignited once American Idol runs its course and Lamb is able to finally take the steps she’s been feverishly working towards putting in place.

And with several months till Idol’s run completes, Lamb has plenty of time to make some very big plans.

Nick Grever’s Beyond Idol Chatter blogs follow the post-American Idol activities, career moves and achievements of Cincinnati vocalist Jess Lamb. 


]]>
<![CDATA[Watch: Electric Citizen’s “Light Years Beyond” Music Video]]>

Local Rock crew Electric Citizen (winners of a 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the “Hard Rock/Metal” category) just unleashed a new music video for its delicious slab of trippy heaviness, “Light Years Beyond.” The clip, which features some cool throwback visual stylings and was directed by David Brodsky, premiered on Vice’s music site, Noisey, today.


The track is off of the band’s great album Sateen, which came out last year on RidingEasy Records. Click here for more on Electric Citizen. And read CityBeat’s interview with the band from last year here.






]]>
<![CDATA[Hip Hop for the Children]]>

Last year, Cincinnati Hip Hop artist MC Till (aka Adam Hayden) did the unexpected and released The Neighborhood, an amazing album that brilliantly fused Jazz with Hip Hop rhymes. This year, Hayden is working on another delightful musical curveball — a Hip Hop-centric album (available on vinyl) and book project for children titled The Corner

The seeds of the project were planted several years ago when his friend, graphic designer/videographer/rapper Vernard Fields, who has worked over a decade with special needs children in the Cincinnati Public Schools system, mentioned to Hayden that he wanted to make a Hip Hop album for kids. In 2012, while Hayden was working as an assistant CPS teacher, he discovered that by rapping some children’s poetry, he quickly and easily captured the attention of the first grade class in which he was in charge. Recalling Fields orginal suggestion, Hayden got back in touch with him and the pair worked out some material and presented it to an even younger audience (pre-schoolers), where they were again a big hit. Hayden and Fields then teamed up with illustrator Charlie Padgett to create the visuals for The Corner


The high-quality book and album will be made available as hard copies and digitally (an app and website are also in the works) and the trio hopes that schools will be interested in using their project in the classroom. The Kickstarter perks offered for the campaign  for The Corner include having bundles sent to specific teachers and schools (there’s even an accompanying study guide for teachers). 


The ambitious project won’t be cheap to produce; the three artists are currently aiming for more than $48,000 in their Kickstarter campaign. If you’d like to contribute and/or check out the project, click here or on the video below.



]]>
<![CDATA[Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Voting Ends Soon]]>

The 18th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony/party, presented by CityBeat to honor Greater Cincinnati’s amazing music scene, is just around the corner. The show — featuring performances by nominees like Young Heirlooms, Buggs tha Rocka, Mad Anthony, Injecting Strangers, The Cliftones and more — is set for Sunday, Jan. 25 at Covington’s Madison Theater. Click here to get your tickets now. VIP tickets are also available. VIPs get membership to the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation, a James Brown or Hank Williams T-shirt (or limited edition poster made with Eli's BBQ sauce!), beer, appetizers, soft drinks and private seating. 

There is still time to vote for your favorite nominated artists — but not much. The ballot closes Thursday night at midnight. Click here to add your two cents before it’s too late.


For a CEA warm-up, be sure to come to Bogart’s this Saturday for our annual Best New Bands showcase, featuring performances by New Artist of the Year CEA nominees Dream Tiger, Honeyspiders, Prim, Elk Creek, Leggy and Noah Smith, as well as fellow relative newcomers Kate Wakefield, JetLab, Harbour and Near Earth Objects. 


For more information on all of the performing artists, pick up this week’s CityBeat, our annual Best New Bands issue. You can also read the stories here and here


Tickets for Saturday’s 7 p.m. showcase are just $5 (or 50 cents per performer!) and can be purchased at the Bogart’s box office. 



]]>
<![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)    

Eleven

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 

Concert


12/3/79


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[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[Foxy No More?]]>

On Monday, Cincinnati's Foxy Shazam, one of the Queen City's more successful musical exports in recent years (and one of the city's best ever live bands), announced on its Facebook page that it would be disbanding, effective immediately. The extremely hard-touring band has canceled all forthcoming shows, including a hometown New Year's Eve appearance at Oakley's 20th Century Theater.

The band says the split will be for "an unknown amount of time" as the members spend some time with their families and other artistic endeavors. "We truly believe there is a future for Foxy Shazam, that our best art is yet to come," the message continues. "We don't know how long this will take but we plan on someday returning more powerful than ever."

CityBeat has written many articles about Foxy over the years, including a 2010 cover story (read here). The band first caught our attention in 2005 after the self-released The Flamingo Trigger, which we reviewed and talked about with the group.



Most recently, CityBeat chatted with the band about Gonzo, Foxy's first self-released album since Flamingo Trigger, which was produced by Steve Albini and came after a few releases with Warner Brothers Records and IRS Records.



Hopefully they'll be back sooner than later. I don't like that one of my favorite Foxy tunes is now "ironic." (This still deserves to be co-opted by a local sports team … or better yet, the city's tourism board.)



(Foxy in 2005 and in 2014:)

 

]]>
<![CDATA[An Interview with Ian McLagan ]]>

Ian McLagan, who performs at Southgate House Revival on Wednesday, is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. And for good reason.

In 1965, he replaced one Jimmy Weston as keyboard player in Small Faces, one of the two great Mod bands (the other was The Who) who captured the youthquake mood and sense of liberation that swept the Swinging London of the mid-1960s.

In Britain, Small Faces had hit after hit featuring vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott — “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” “All or Nothing,” “Tin Soldier,” “Lazy Sunday,” “Here Come the Nice,” “The Universal” and more. Their one U.S. hit, the psychedelicized “Itchycoo Park,” has been a Rock-radio staple from the day it hit the charts in 1967.

When Marriott departed, the remaining group members — McLagan, bassist Ronnie Lane and drummer Kenney Jones — decided to carry on by recruiting two members of The Jeff Beck Group, singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood. Called Faces, they became one of Britain’s most successful bands of the early 1970s with their rough-hewn, pub-friendly style of rowdy-yet-tender acoustic-electric Rock. Among their classics are “Stay With Me,” “Cindy Incidentally” and “Ooh La La.”

With all the talent in that band, it didn’t stay together too long. Stewart’s concurrent solo career got too big, while Wood was wanted by The Rolling Stones and Jones by The Who. McLagan, whose vocal duties were limited in Small Faces and Faces (who were simultaneously inducted into the Rock Hall in 2012), became an in-demand session and touring keyboardist for Bonnie Raitt, Billy Bragg, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and many others.

He also began occasionally releasing his own mostly small label albums, solo and with The Bump Band, that showcased his ruggedly naturalistic voice and songwriting talents. He has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1994, after moving to the U.S. from Britain and living in L.A. for 16 years.

At the time of his Austin move, Lane was also there. But the latter’s worsening multiple sclerosis soon prompted a move to less-humid Trinidad, Colo. In fact, Lane already was planning that move when McLagan told him he was coming to Austin. So their time together in the same town only lasted for one and a half months. Lane died in 1997.

McLagan’s solo career took a great leap forward with 2009’s Never Say Never, filled with sometimes-rueful, sometimes-redemptive songs, melodic and rhythmic, prompted by the loss of his wife, Kim, in an auto accident. The songs have some of the majesty of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” another high point of early-1970s British Rock.



That album, in turn, inspired the label Yep Roc — home to still-vital veteran singer/songwriters like Nick Lowe, Dave Alvin and Robyn Hitchcock — to distribute his follow-up, this year’s fine United States. It’s been getting rave reviews and is helping McLagan finally emerge as a bandleader.



The album is bringing McLagan (with Bump Band bassist Jon Notarthomas) to Southgate House Revival in Newport Wednesday. As far as he can recall, this is his first show as a headliner in the Cincinnati area since his first solo album, Troublemaker, came out in 1979.

“This year I’ve toured as much as I have in last 10 years,” the affable, sunny-dispositioned McLagan says in a phone interview. “Now I have a record company that wants me to tour and that’s great.”

It’s also a little strange. McLagan, 69, is a member of British Rock & Roll royalty — of the same generation, and often friends with, those who have been arena-filling superstars for six decades and counting. Yet his Cincinnati area date is surprisingly low profile, with little advance publicity. (For a variety of reasons, Southgate House didn’t announce it until just two weeks before the show.)

It’s an odd situation. He’s been making music professionally for 50 years, yet is still establishing himself as a touring attraction.

“The funny thing is, if I’d made several albums in the 1960s and had some success, the people that like my albums now would have grown up liking them,” McLagan says. “I didn’t have that, and I realize I’m stumbling around this wonderful world trying to attract attention now.

“It’s pretty funny, really. But I just love what I do,” he says. “I am so blessed that all I’ve done in my professional life, since I was 17-18, is play music and somehow make a dollar here and there.”

One thing that remains constant in McLagan’s shows — in his psyche — is his love for his late wife. He met her when she was estranged from husband Keith Moon. He always performs several songs from Never Say Never.

“I sing to my wife; it helps me,” he confides. “She was my muse. I’ve written so many songs about her, to her, with references to her, and still do. She’s a big part of my life. We were together for 33 years. It actually does me good — she’s with me all that time in that way.”

Even though McLagan isn’t that famous as an individual, he was in groups whose records sold millions. So shouldn’t his royalties afford him such a cushion he can treat work like a hobby?

“Ha, ha, ha — you’re very funny,” he replies.

He explains Small Faces were on a modest salary that was paid by their manager, Don Arden, with knowledge of their Immediate record label’s head, Andrew Loog Oldham. They never got royalties during the band’s lifetime.

McLagan joined Small Faces in 1965 after original keyboardist Weston left following the group’s first British hit, “Watcha Gonna Do About It.” Although it wasn’t why original Small Faces keyboardist Weston left, he had been the only member of the original lineup who wasn’t actual small, height-wise.

McLagan, who was, had been gigging with more Blues-oriented groups, including one led by Boz Burrell (future King Crimson and Bad Company member).

“They got me because they read a review of a show I was in with another band that said I played Hammond organ and I was really good, and it had a photograph with my name under it," McLagan says. “But it wasn’t a photograph of me, it was of Boz Burrell. So when they saw me, they laughed and Steve picked me up because they hadn’t known I was short. How cool is that? They said, ‘He doesn’t look like his photograph but he looks all right.’ ”

Arden asked McLagan how much he was earning and he said five pounds (the British currency) a week, a very small sum. So he offered McLagan 30 pounds during probation and then an even split with the others.

“He was showing off,” McLagan says. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m a millionaire.’ Eventually, I asked Ronnie Lane, ‘What’s going on? Am I still on probation?’ They knew nothing about it. We went up to the office and Ronnie said to Don, ‘Hey, Mac’s in the band, all right?’ My money went down to 20 pounds a week — that’s what they were getting! We never got anything other than 20 pounds a week for two years and then it was 50 pounds a week. Since 1997, we now get our royalties. Of course, Small Faces albums are not selling in the amount they were when we didn’t get paid, but we are at least getting something.

“But you know what? It didn’t fucking matter,” he continues. “I’m earning every day, Don Arden’s dead, Andrew and I have made up and we’re friends. The money’s gone so move on.”

As for the Faces, McLagan says their record label — Warner Bros. — does pay. But it’s been slow to release archival product. The four-disc Warner/Rhino retrospective Five Guys Walk into a Bar came out back in 2004.

“The Faces sell a little bit but Warner Bros. are such a bunch of idiots because they didn’t realize if we haven’t got records out we can’t make any money,” McLagan says. “It’s taken a while, but there should be a Faces live album … out next year.”

The album was recorded in the States during the Faces’ heyday.

“We’ve just discovered this recently,” McLagan says. “We recorded it and completely forgot about it. I heard a couple tracks and it sounds really good.”

McLagan then reveals an enticing possibility.

“Hopefully we’ll tour behind it,” he says. “Rod’s keen, I’m keen, Kenney’s keen and Ronnie Wood is keen, so I don’t see anything in the way of it.”

In the meantime, McLagan’s Wednesday show at Southgate House is a rare chance to see this great Rock & Roll musician in an intimate setting. (Click here for ticket info.)

]]>
<![CDATA[CCM Grads Back Bennett and Gaga]]>

Jazz musician Brian Newman, Ohio native and graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, has become a New York City Jazz scene staple with his group’s popular residencies in the city. And he’s been popping up on national television a lot recently thanks to his role as the bandleader of Lady Gaga’s Jazz projects. Gaga has employed Newman’s group for various Jazz performances over the past few years, including surprise club gigs in NYC and the singer’s 2011 network TV special, A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.


Newman and his group, which features fellow CCM grads (and onetime players in Cincinnati’s music scene) Steve Kortyka (saxophone), Alex Smith (piano) and Scott Ritchie (bass), have also been working with American music icon Tony Bennett, thanks to Bennett and Gaga’s recent collaborative album, Cheek to Cheek, released in late September. For live and promotional appearances, Gaga’s Jazz backers meld with Bennett’s.


Newman and Kortyka were recently seen backing Bennett on The Tonight Show (Gaga was unable to make the appearance, but taped an intro for the segment). 

Newman was also the “guest bartender” on the popular Bravo show, Watch What Happens Live. The trumpeter got sucked into the action during the “after show” when his mom and dad called in; click here to check out the cute clip in which Newman thanks his parents for letting him do whatever he wanted and pursue his musical career.


The full CCM-schooled crew will be featured on Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE!, part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series. Filmed at Lincoln Center in late July, the hourlong concert special premieres on Cincinnati PBS channel WCET on Oct. 24 at 9 p.m. 


]]>
<![CDATA[Mainstay Rock Bar Calls It a Day]]>

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Mainstay Rock Bar will be celebrating its final weekend before closing its doors after five and a half years in operation. As I prepared to write about the closure of my favorite local bar, I struggled to figure out just how to voice my sadness. I’m still not entirely sure how but I did think of a ton of stories that exemplify why Mainstay was so special to me.

I started going to Mainstay back in college before it was even Mainstay. It was called The Poison Room and my friends and I used to go to their weekly ’80s dance night. My memories of those nights are fond (if a bit hazy), but I was too new to the scene for the closure to upset me too much. When the location reopened with a new moniker and a makeover, I was happy to have another place that catered to my musical tastes. But it took some time for my love of Mainstay to truly grow.

Looking back, the closures of the original Southgate House and Mad Hatter in Northern Kentucky are what sparked my connection to Mainstay. With two of my normal haunts gone in the space of months, I needed another place to go and Mainstay was at the top of a fairly short list. I started only going for shows, but the bar soon lived up to its name. It transitioned from just a music venue to a reliable fallback to my first choice. Need a good burger? Mainstay. Want to sing some karaoke? Mainstay. Interested in hearing some Rock & Roll? Mainstay. Do you prefer bartenders that actually know what they’re talking about? Mainstay.

Of course, a major part of Mainstay Rock Bar’s appeal to me was that middle word — the “Rock.” Mainstay has been host to some of the best local and regional bands the area has to offer. In recent years, the selection of bands and performances has also become more and more eclectic. There are few bars that can host a Hip Hop show one night, a burlesque performance the next and a Surf Rock show to round out the weekend. Mainstay has proven time and time again that its dedication to the local music scene is genuine by taking the time to champion bands on the rise and hosting all sorts of community events like the ubiquitous Midpoint Music Festival. And they’ve done it all without charging a cover on any shows save the biggest of the big. If you wanted to take a chance on a new band or genre, Mainstay was the place to go. At least you had a fantastic beer selection to console you if you didn’t like what you heard.

For all of my wild and crazy memories, the ones I have of my time with the staff are the fondest. Memories like an interview being derailed when the entire band and I took a minute to stare at the hot new bartender (sorry Becky, hopefully Mangrenade and I tipped you well that night). Or pulling the curtain for Dandelion Death with Scary. Or riding Chris’s knee scooter to the bathroom, weaving in between a busy Friday night crowd. Or the little things, like Lena taking the time to listen to my post-breakup moaning and buying me a “girl’s suck” shot when it was all said and done. The staff (past and present) of Mainstay consists of an insane bunch of people who love the music, love the atmosphere and know how to have a good time. And that attitude coursed through the entire venue night after night. To be a part of it at any point in time was intoxicating. To be welcomed in as a friend and included in the shenanigans was humbling.

As I became more of a fixture of the establishment, the more I grew to know the staff and feel accepted. I’ve frequently called Mainstay my Heavy Metal Cheers; it’s the only bar in Cincinnati where I can walk in and be greeted with a handshake or high five and see my favorite beer and shot sitting on the bar.

As I reach the end of this article, I still don’t know how to say just what Mainstay means to me. It’s where I sang dozens of Danzig songs, watched hundreds of bands take the stage, spent several birthdays and drowned far too many brain cells. There isn’t a place in Cincinnati quite like Mainstay and its closing will leave a pretty big hole in my heart. But I wanted to say thank you for the five and a half years of memories and raise a glass – full of Jameson, of course – to the people that made that place so special. 

For your final weekend, I’ll be sitting at the bar, enjoying a shot and a brew at Mainstay — where everybody knows your name… or at least your favorite drink.


]]>
<![CDATA[WNKU Supports Local Music, Local Music Supports WNKU]]>

While commercial radio throws a bone here and there to homegrown musicians in Greater Cincinnati via specialty shows or segments, public radio station WNKU (89.7 FM; wnku.org) frequently adds songs from local artists to its regular-rotation playlist. And it has for years. The station also covers the local scene online with news and reviews, hosts local musicians for its live in-studio Studio 89 program and sponsors numerous musical events across the Tristate.


Local musicians are returning the favor by appearing on the new compilation album, Get Real Gone: Road Songs for Public Radio. In lieu of, say, a cliched tote bag gift, WNKU will be giving CDs of the album to those who donate during the station’s fall fund drive. Listeners who become “sustaining members,” paying just $8 a month, or those who donate $96 can score a disc of their very own. 


The compilation features tracks by Roger Klug, Brian Lovely’s Flying Underground, Eclipse Movement, Goose, The Newbees, Balderdash, Tim Goshorn, Kim Taylor, psychodots, Marcos, Graveblankets, Davis Kinney, Charlie Fletcher, Jeff Seeman and Bromwell-Diehl. 


This Saturday and Sept. 27, several of the Get Real Gone participants will perform live at WNKU’s studio. This Saturday, the lineup features Davis Kenney (10 a.m.), Balderdash (noon), The Newbees (1 p.m.), Roger Klug Power Trio (2 p.m.) and Graveblankets (3 p.m.). On Sept. 27, tune in to hear Kim Taylor (10 a.m.), Jeffrey Seeman (10:40 a.m.), Brian Lovely’s Flying Underground (11:30 a.m.), Goose (1 p.m.), Charlie Fletcher (with The Bluebirds; 2:30 p.m.) and the Bromwell-Diehl Band (3:15 p.m.). 


Click here for more info and here to make a donation.

]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Walk the Moon Plays New Single on 'Late Night']]>

The reigning Cincinnati Entertainment Award winners of the Artist of the Year honors, Alt Pop quartet Walk the Moon, are finally set to release their second album for RCA Records. The album's lead single, "Shut Up and Dance," was released Sept. 10 and last night the group performed the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers. (Watch below.)

The band's sophomore RCA full-length will be out before the year's end, according to the label.

Walk the Moon kicks off its coast-to-coast “Shut Up and Tour” tour of smaller clubs in Seattle on Oct. 8. The band will perform some of the new material on the tour, which does not include a hometown date. The group will be in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 21, but that show instantly sold out. The Columbus date is also the first of several shows that will feature like-minded Cincinnati Pop Rock trio Public as opening act.


]]>