by Brian Baker
42 days ago
Cincy Indie Rock favorites return with their final album and a pair of final shows. Unless …
After a tumultuous period that included personnel change, a career lull, an identity shift and finally an unexpected and unfortunate dissolution, the members of Pomegranates clearly thought their time had come and gone. But now, in a story twist that is equally unexpected and exultantly hailed by even the most casual fan, the Cincinnati band is taking two final bows on stage at Newport’s Southgate House Revival this Saturday, and one final stab at studio redemption with the release of its fifth album, Healing Power.Two years ago, Pomegranates played what they intended to be their last show. The quartet had toured relentlessly behind its fourth album, 2012's Heaven, and when the band finally dropped anchor, the members began work on what should have been their fifth album."We thought we were going to make a noisier Rock record and instead, overall, it seems pretty low key and way more chilled out," drummer Jacob Merritt says. "And it's pretty long, also, with more songs — I don't know if ‘sprawling’ is the right word."When Pomegranates started shopping their new tunes around, they were more than a little dismayed at the lukewarm reception they received. The departure of multi-instrumentalist Curt Kiser and the arrival of the similarly-talented Pierce Geary infused the band with a fresh perspective, but the indifference to Healing Power flooded them with self-doubt. And with members Isaac Karns and Joey Cook thinking about solo projects, the quartet began to reconsider everything."We were a nominally successful, mid-level band and we had been for a few years," Merritt says. "We gave (Healing Power) to a bunch of labels and managers and no one seemed to care. There was this weird stigma, where people were like, 'You guys have been around so long (the band formed way back in the mid-’00s), and you get on all these great tours. Why aren't you more successful?' And no one wanted to take the jump to help us become more successful. Nothing seemed to happen, and the guys were getting tired of the slow, steady growth and the grind of being away for weeks at a time, so we were very disappointed. The lineup had changed with Pierce, and it didn't make sense to release the album as it was, and we were second-guessing ourselves because no new people in the industry seemed to be interested and we were like, ‘Maybe this isn't good.’ ”Thinking that perhaps they needed to shake things up, with a personnel change representing a good time to implement just such a jostle, Pomegranates dropped their name and adopted the title of the new album as their new moniker."We wanted to call the album Healing Power but at that point, we were like, 'Let's turn a new leaf and just be Healing Power,’ ” Merritt says. "It seemed to confuse a lot of people, because we weren't doing anything differently. We were still Pomegranates, playing the same set, but there were people who were like, 'I don't know about Healing Power, I like Pomegranates.’ That was perhaps a mistake, if you want to call it that.”Healing Power lasted for close to a year before the quartet decided to pack it in. The band's official last show came almost exactly a year ago at the request of one of its biggest fans in Virginia, who messaged the group through Facebook and asked if it would consider getting back together to play a wedding. They thought it was a nice way to go out."Our last show was a wedding in a bike shop," Merritt says. "We were like, 'Why not?' We just felt like it."The reclamation of the Healing Power album began with Merritt's friend Ben Wittkugel, who had become interested in the music industry while a student at Indiana University. Knowing Pomegranates were sitting on an unreleased album, Wittkugel proposed an interesting idea."He wanted to start a cassette tape label to go hand-in-hand with a concert promotion company he was trying to get started," Merritt says. “He wanted to put this thing out and we were like, 'Sure. Whatever.’ ”Wittkugel will release somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 first-edition cassette copies of Healing Power through his Winspear label, and the band has pressed up about 100 CDs — there's also a four-song vinyl EP of re-recorded tracks and one song that was dropped from the album ("I don't know why we were so adamant about not having it on the album because it may be one of the better songs …") — which will all be available at the Southgate House shows. The album and EP will then be available digitally when the limited pressings are sold out."Unless something that happens to people in the movies happens to us," Merritt clarifies with a laugh.Merritt's description of Healing Power as sprawling is appropriate; the album has several propulsive moments, including the staggering, stuttering majesty of the seven minute "Hand of Death" and the tribal electric blast of "House of My Mortal Father." There is also a fairly diverse dynamic across Healing Power's 13 cuts, which careen from those spurts of high energy to atmospheric and moody Pop confections, like the gentle and aptly titled "Taking It Easy" and the melancholic reverie of "Morning Light," with the strolling bounce of the title track finding the middle ground between those stylistic ends of the spectrum. Logically, Healing Power stands as a natural progression from Heaven, which the band also thought would be louder and less constrained, and it also reveals Pomegranates' impending solo directions, as the majority of the album consists of songs that Karns and Cook brought to the band in more or less completed form."In the past, it was 80% Pomegranates, 20% their songs, and this time it's probably 40% Pomegranates and 60% their songs," Merritt says. “It's hard to know, because you perceive it differently than other people perceive it, because you're so close to it. In my mind, (Healing Power) seems less reverb-y and more introspective. Not that there's not a few moments that are a little more up-tempo."Although Pomegranates splintered at the end, there's no hard feelings among the band members; they continue to work and hang together ("We've been in each other's weddings …"). Cook and Geary are working on Cook's solo project, Merritt runs the Sabbath Recording — where Karns also works, including on a recent project with Aaron Collins — and he keeps a busy schedule recording local bands like Dark Colour and The Yugos, as well as bands outside of the area.Pomegranates' live return has generated a huge buzz, with the Southgate show selling out so quickly that the band added a second, earlier show to the slate (both of which will be opened by Keeps). That response begs the question of any possible consideration for maintaining Pomegranates as a side project going forward."I would say, ‘We'll see,’ ” Merritt says, diplomatically. "Obviously, we aren't opposed to things happening if and when the time arises to play a show here or there. Beyond that, I'm not really sure."The band's two shows will be structured the same, with older catalog material comprising the first half of the set and songs from Healing Power populating the second half, which will also be distinguished by an appearance from Kiser, who will join the lineup to play the new songs.Given the fact that these two shows could represent the last time Pomegranates play together for the foreseeable future, though they also seem to be keeping their options open, there is both very little and potentially quite a lot at stake with the release of Healing Power. Still, the band members are happy to just live in the moment and cherish the memory of the impact they've had to this point."I know how difficult it is for a band to find their audience and to play music for people," Merritt says, philosophically. "To know that our music has meant enough to people that, if even 30 people showed up for one show, it's like, 'Cool, you guys still care.' But when you hear stories about people who were suicidal and they heard your music and it changed their lives and they credit you as a piece of why they're still alive — those sorts of things are really awesome. There's people coming from Chicago and Virginia and Michigan and North Carolina (for the Southgate shows). It's cool. We found people that our music really resonated with."Tickets for Pomegranates’ 9 p.m. Southgate House Revival show Saturday are sold out, but some remain for the 5:30 p.m. show here.
Plus, Alone at 3AM, Mohenjo Daro and The Cla-Zels play gigs this weekend to promote new releases.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 7, 2015
The AYE Music & Art Festival —
founded in 2006 to raise money for various charities — returns for its
biggest fest yet this Friday-Sunday. Held at several venues in
Over-the-Rhine, proceeds from the 2015 edition of AYE will go to Boys Hope Girls Hope.
76 days ago
A pair of music festivals just northeast of downtown Cincy feature wide array of local talent
With the summer music-festival season winding down and Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival just two weeks away (did you pick up this week’s CityBeat for official guide, right? If not, you can find info here), you might think there’d be a music-fest lull this week. But two (very different) festivals northeast of Cincinnati are keeping the vibe alive this weekend — the Foxfire Freedom Festival in Morrow, Ohio, and the Longstone Street Festival in Milford, Ohio.
The Foxfire fest, dubbed a “music and sustainability festival,” takes place Friday and Saturday at Morgan’s Riverside Campground & Cabins in Morrow, along the Little Miami River (you can even go canoeing if you’re up for it!). The $45 two-day ticket, available at the gate, covers camping Friday and Saturday night (one-day, non-camping tickets are $15). Foxfire will feature vendors and information related to being an environmentally-friendly citizen (the “sustainability” mention), with live music from several area Roots/Americana/Bluegrass performers, as well as acts that play other genres (or a fusion of several). Friday’s Foxfire lineup kicks off at 6 p.m. and features Dead Man String Band, Easy Tom Eby, Jared Schaedle, Joe Wolf, Heather Hamlet and Richard Cisneros. On Saturday, music begins at noo. The Saturday lineup features Common Center, Baoku Moses And The Image Afro-Beat Band, Lawson Family Reunion, Simply Dan String Band, Aaron Hendrick Trio, Black Mountain Throwdown, Adam Singer, Little Miami String Band, Allen Talbott, Blue Caboose and a songwriters-in-the-round session with Greg Mahan, Wolfcryer and Achilles Tenderloin. Click here for links to more info on all of the artists. More on the campground can be found here. And further info on the Foxfire Freedom Festival is available at the fest’s official site and Facebook page.The Longstone Street Festival takes place Saturday along Main Street in Milford’s historic downtown district. The annual free event celebrates Milford with various food and arts and crafts vendors, plus a stage featuring a variety of musical acts all day long. This year, the music starts at noon with My Brother’s Keeper (featuring Andrew Hibbard). Other Longstone performers include Seabird, Harbour, Along the Shore, Taylor Shannon, Shiny and the Spoon, Daniel in Stereo, Static Wonder and a band featuring students from the School of Rock Mason. For full details (including info on vendors, kids’ activities and more), visit longstonestreetfestival.com. The times the various performers are playing the Longstone Street Festival can be found at the event’s Facebook page, which also includes music and video samples of several of the artists. The Foxfire Freedom Festival and the Longstone Street Festival are both open to all ages and are family friendly.
Plus, Leo Coffeehouse stars new season at former home and The Mitchells and concert:nova team up for unique concert
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Some cross-generational Cincinnati Hip
Hop champs (Hi-Tek, Donte from Mood and Buggs Tha Rocka) are currently doing a series of Ohio dates with modern legend
Talib Kweli, including a Cincy stop at Bogart's. Plus, Leo Coffeehouse returns to Zion United Church of Christ in Norwood and The Mitchells and concert:nova team up for a unique cross-genre concert at the Woodward.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Band Over the Rhine announce fundraising concerts this weekend at its new barn-turned-performing-arts-center, Nowhere Else. Plus, Americana/Blues/Bluegrass foursome The Goodle Boys celebrate their debut album and singer/songwriter Billy Catfish throws a musical shindig.
With her American Idol contract up, Jess Lamb is pushing her career forward and reveling in her independence
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 20, 2015
While Jess Lamb's journey on American Idol was short, she has been spending her post-Idol
time productively and is poised to take the next step on May 30 with the release of her first official single,
Plus, MusicLi project hosts happy hour, Tunes & Blooms dates rescheduled, Salsa on the Square returns and the Applachian Festival showcases area Bluegrass acts
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Rock trio Howard Brothers Band release first new album in seven years this week, new MusicLi project (which will benefit local businesses and local musicians) hosts an introductory happy hour, the Tunes & Blooms concerts at the Cincinnati Zoo begin rescheduled dates this week, Salsa on the Square heats up Fountain Square starting Thursday and the 46th annual Appalachian Festival showcases numerous local Bluegrass artists.
by Nick Grever
at 09:51 AM | Permalink
Cincinnati singer Jess Lamb prepares for the release of her new reworked single, “Memories”
Since Jess Lamb’s time on American Idol, she has been busy getting her name and brand out in the public eye. She has played constantly at venues old and new, teamed up with other local musicians for projects and made many TV and radio appearances around Cincinnati. Up until this point, her output has been largely live performances and outreach. But now that her contract with American Idol is in its final month, she is taking the next step to continue growing in her career, starting with the release of her first single to radio on March 30.The single, “Memories,” should be familiar to most of Lamb’s fans already. “This is a song that I’ve released through iTunes and performed as an indie artist, with just a simple, master mix in 2010,” Lamb says. However, the song has been updated and revitalized by superstar producer David Sisko.Sisko has worked with artists like Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child and Kelly Clarkson, just to name a few. What sets his version of the track apart from the original is twofold. First, Sisko has an obvious ear for what makes a Pop song successful. The new version is fuller, with layered vocals (all recorded by Lamb) and thicker instrumentation. Sisko also worked in hooks that loop into the listener’s ear and don’t let go. When the guitar and bass drop out for a chorus, leaving only a tribal drum beat and Lamb’s vocals, it becomes obvious that the song could easily find a home on any Pop radio station across the country.The second change that Sisko brought to the table was his eagerness and ability to produce Lamb’s vocals, which she has never experienced before. “I’ve never had someone say, ‘I want to produce your vocals.’ I’ve been putting music out since 2010 and no one has ever said, ‘Why don’t you try this Jess,’ ” Lamb says. What results is a track wherein Lamb’s already powerful vocals are tuned to a fine edge. Sisko put great care into keeping the heart of the track intact to craft a song that maintains the original’s sultry ambience, but dials up the energy to more Pop-friendly levels.While Lamb is excited at the proposition of turning her originals into more Pop-friendly versions, she is taking great care to insure that the end results stay in her control.“I own that master and I plan to own each master. It’s kind of hard with the money to keep up,” Lamb says.This isn’t a normal practice for most musicians, especially for acts like Lamb who aren’t rolling around in platinum record-levels of money. But she is adamant on maintaining a handle on what is released under her name. “I’m really starting to buy into the really independent artist. I’m going to own my master, which is a big deal. I could have done this with Sisko and signed a production deal, which is what most everyone does. They don’t have the money so they sign a production deal and he owns that master,” she says.Lamb plans on releasing remixed versions of her songs throughout the summer, with “Dig Deep” following shortly after the release of “Memories.” She is set on putting out each track the same way, utilizing the contacts she has made over the past months to release each track without any sort of major label or other interference. She is ascribing to the indie artist mentality from beginning to end and insuring that the music that is put out under her name is something she truly believes in and cares about.Ultimately, this is just the beginning of what Lamb hopes to do once she is released from American Idol’s contract (which limits certain industry/career moves). The groundwork that she has laid in the preceding months will finally have more building blocks laid upon them at the end of May and “Memories” is just the first stone of many. Ultimately, she wants to stay stationed in Cincinnati and grow her career from the city she calls home. Whether she performs her works herself or passes them to other artists is up in the air at this point, but one outcome could easily feed into the other. “I have songs that I’m sitting on that could be reproduced for other artists, because I really do want to make a living writing and performing. That’s where my heart is. That’s where I feel that I shine the most and I feel like I’m being backed in those ways,” Lamb says.In many ways, “Memories” is simultaneously a finish line and a starting point for Lamb. It shows just how far she has come since the Kansas City tryouts on American Idol, but it is also her springboard into a much larger and more demanding pool. But with a world-class producer working with her, a city full of supporters behind her and her own raw talent, she’s determined to make a big splash.Nick Grever’s Beyond Idol Chatter blogs follow the post-American Idol activities, career moves and achievements of Cincinnati vocalist Jess Lamb.
Plus, West Chester's Buckeye BBQ Fest showcases local Blues and Walk the Moon continues to climb charts
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Americana trio The Part-Time Gentlemen celebrate the release of Whiskey on My Breath with an afternoon party at Arnold's on Sunday, the Buckeye BBQ Fest in West Chester showcases local Blues acts like Ricky Nye Inc. and Noah Wotherspoon and Walk the Moon plays NBC's The Voice and continues to climb the charts.
by Mike Breen
As Cincinnati band’s “Shut Up and Dance” continues to climb the charts, the group gets set for primetime TV appearance
If you have access to a radio or television set, then you’re likely well aware that “Shut Up and Dance” by Cincinnati Dance Pop crew Walk the Moon has become a bona fide Pop hit. The single has been certified platinum, meaning it has sold more than one millions copies. The catchy, danceable track is currently at No. 5 on Billboard’s singles chart and has also performed very well on various other charts. “Shut Up” reached No. 2 on iTunes Top Songs chart and Billboard’s digital charts. On Spotify, the song has been streamed more than 78 million times, while “Shut Up”’s video has held a steady presence in the Top 10 of VH1’s Top 20 video countdown. Talking is Hard, Walk the Moon’s second album for RCA Records, continues to benefit from the single’s success, moving as high as No. 14 on Billboard’s overall album chart.
The Cincinnati band has worked hard to push “Shut Up and Dance” to the upper reaches of the Pop charts. Along with the usual late-night talk show circuit, Walk the Moon has also appeared on network morning shows like The Today Show (which used various WtM tunes as bumper music throughout the day the band appeared) and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. When DeGeneres introduced the group on her show, she called “Shut Up” the band’s “No. 1 hit,” which it wasn’t at the time but could end up there as Walk the Moon keeps up its relentless promotional push. WtM’s is also becoming a bigger and bigger concert draw, selling out many of its shows across the country (the band just recently completely another successful U.S. jaunt).
And WtM has also been making it onto prime time TV lately. Last month, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker danced to “Shut Up” for a routine on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Tuesday night (May 12), the band will play “Shut Up” as special guests on NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice. Tune in to catch the performance at 8 p.m.
Though several Cincinnati-based acts have done well on a national level, crossing over to the top of the Pop charts is pretty rare, particularly for artists who choose to remain in their hometown while pursuing their career. Walk the Moon comes home to play Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival on June 5 along the Ohio’s riverfront. Click here for tickets/details.