Tuesday • The Drinkery
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 16, 2014
On the final night of last year’s
MidPoint Music Festival extravaganza, an old man dropped into The
Drinkery to grab a beer, catch his breath and absorb a few minutes of
Sol Cat’s soulful Psych/Dance/Pop, which had reminded him at least a
little of Walk the Moon’s similarly adrenalized output. He’d expected an
out-of-town show to be sparsely attended, which would theoretically
allow him a seat at the bar and a chance to recharge for the remainder
of the night.
by Mike Breen
Cincinnati singer/songwriter stars in fourth video from the Queen City Project’s “MidPoint Sessions” series
So far, the videos released from The Queen City Project’s series of clips from The MidPoint Sessions (a day party that took place at the Art Academy during September’s MidPoint Music Festival) have showcased three great Ohio acts — Athens’ The Ridges (also the curators of the Sessions), Cincinnati’s The Happy Maladies and Columbus’ Indigo Wild. Today you can check out the final clip from the performances, this one featuring another Cincinnati artist — intriguing singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan. While the previous performances were acoustic, Sullivan strums an electric guitar and utilizes loops to create a haunting effect.
Click here for more about Sullivan. And you can see/hear her live this Thursday at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine as she opens for Lexington, Ky.’s Ancient Warfare, which also played this year’s MidPoint Music Festival. Find details on the free show here.
by Mike Breen
Columbus Indie rockers Indigo Wild star in latest video from The Queen City Project’s MidPoint Sessions
Over the past few weeks we’ve been sharing some great new videos shot at September’s MidPoint Music Festival by The Queen City Project. The clips feature performances from The MidPoint Sessions, a day party held during MPMF at Art Academy of Cincinnati in conjunction with FotoFocus’ Reverberation concert photography exhibit. The event showcased acoustic performances by four Ohio acts — Athens’ The Ridges (who curated the lineup), Cincinnati’s The Happy Maladies and Molly Sullivan and the star’s of today’s video debut, Columbus Indie Rock foursome Indigo Wild.
Indigo Wild formed in 2010 and, if the name sounds familiar, it may be due to the band’s frequent shows in Cincinnati. So far, the band has only issued one recording, the 2011 EP If By Sea, but for The MidPoint Sessions, Indigo Wild unveiled a newer song titled “Be Patient.”
The band’s website says “Be Patient” “lays a stepping stone” to Indigo Wild’s first full-length release. Keep updated on the album’s progress and all things Indigo Wild at indigowildmusic.com.
Click here to view The Ridges’ MidPoint Sessions video and here for The Happy Maladies’ performance. And come back next Friday for the final MidPoint Sessions clip featuring Molly Sullivan.
Plus, David Wolfenberger returns, Freekbass kickstarts album and more
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The new Ubahn Fest showcases DJs, EDM and Hip Hop in a vacant transit tunnel near the riverfront this weekend. Plus, David Wolfenberger to play with old pal/bandmate Mark Olson, the first video from "The MidPoint Sessions" emerges and Freekbass kickstarts a new album project.
by Mike Breen
Queen City Project release first video from MidPoint Music Festival day party
Besides the official music showcases at September’s MidPoint Music Festival, the 12th annual fest featured the most (and best) “satellite events” in MPMF history. These “unofficial” happenings — ranging from “day parties” to various musical presentations, like the free performances at Findlay Market — greatly added to the electricity MPMF brought to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. It showed what can happen when creative people get into the MPMF spirit and try to come up with clever ways to add to it.
Some of the best examples of this were found just off the MidPoint Midway area at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where programmers of the school’s gallery (with presenters Fotofocus) decided to run an exhibit of live music photography by area photographers called Reverberation: Capturing the Live Music Experience during the fest, to capitalize on all of the music lovers flooding the streets of OTR. (Click here to read CityBeat's feature about the exhibit.)Adding another layer of collaborative coolness to the proceedings was “The MidPoint Sessions,” intimate performances by four Ohio musical acts held at the photography exhibit on the Saturday afternoon of the festival. The great Athens, Ohio, Indie/Orchestral Folk ensemble The Ridges performed and curated the rest of the Ohio-centric lineup, which also included Cincinnati’s Molly Sullivan and The Happy Maladies, plus Columbus’ Indigo Wild. The MidPoint Sessions were filmed by The Queen City Project, a local organization that has set out to creatively document some of the interesting and unique things going on in contemporary Cincinnati. Here’s an entertaining, quick-cut look at MidPoint through QCP’s lens:
Queen City Project :: Midpoint Music Festival 2013 from the Queen City Project on Vimeo.And we are thrilled to be able to share QCP’s first video from The MidPoint Sessions, featuring The Ridges.
Queen City Project :: Midpoint Music Festival 2013 :: The Art Academy Sessions :: The Ridges from the Queen City Project on Vimeo.
Be sure to check CityBeat’s music blog every Friday over the three weeks as we unveil the rest of the Sessions series videos.
by Mike Breen
• After four albums on which he played every note, David Obuchowski’s Distant Correspondent project morphed into an actual “band” this year with a self-titled debut album release and the launch of its first full U.S. tour. Obuchowski had been operating the DC project on the side, with his main band, Indie Metal powerhouse Goes Cube, taking up most of his time. Distant Correspondent started to blossom when Obuchowski began trading recordings and collaborating with Michael Lengel over the internet. The collaboration grew to include other members, including Emily Gray from the U.K.’s Meanwhile Back in Communist Russia and acclaimed solo artist Edith Frost.
Fans of Goes Cube should know that Distant Correspondent’s music is a different beast entirely, emitting evocative, hypnotic soundscapes that have landed them the “Dream Pop” tag. For the band’s first full American tour, Cincinnati’s Margaret Darling, whose popular local band The Seedy Seeds announced an indefinite hiatus this past summer, joined the group, taking the place of Frost, who was unable to tour. (Read Brian Baker's DC preview for CityBeat here.)Distant Correspondent, Darling and openers Mack West perform tonight at Mayday in Northside. The free show starts at 9 p.m.
Here is Distant Correspondent’s music video for the new album track “Shatter.”
• This past September at Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival, South Korean rockers Love X Stereo were one of the more anticipated international acts in the lineup. But due to some travel issues, the band was unable to get out of Korea in time to make the festival. The group, which plays highly danceable Electro Rock music heavily influenced by ’90s American Alternative music and Punk, promised to make it back to Cincinnati as soon as possible and, tonight, Love X Stereo makes good on that promise. The band performs a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Eclectic Bloomington, Ind., Indie/Psych Pop/Rock trio Fluffer — which did perform at this year’s MPMF — opens the show at 10 p.m.
Here is the audio for Love X Stereo’s “Lose to Win,” the lead-off track on the band’s new EP, Glow, which was put together for the group’s first U.S. tour.
Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight.
by Brian Baker
As is always the case, I am both mildly devastated and
slightly relieved on the last night of MidPoint. I love the energy of
this weekend every year, but my personal energy gets used up fairly
quickly as the festival progresses. And the recharging stations that dot
the landscape typically involve really delicious food that comes out of
a truck window and is eaten while walking, and bars whose
life-sustaining water is typically served with gin or hoppy and
carbonated from the brewing process (which is, in fact, as it should
The beginning of the MidPoint's last night is always exciting; the end is always bittersweet.
First on the docket were the early shows at Washington
Park, an almost too-good-to-be true Saturday lineup; new local (and soon
global) sensation Tweens, venerable crowd teasers/pleasers Wussy
(filling the slot for Foxygen, who cancelled due to either Sam France's
broken leg after a stage fall in Minneapolis or a feud with bandmate
Jonathan Rado or both) and The Breeders, touring on the 20th anniversary
of the release of Last Splash and playing the album in its entirety and in sequence.
Tweens proved to be better than the hype surrounding them,
blowing through a fast-paced set that perfectly presented their
hyper-caffeinated hybrid of '60s girl-group Doo Wop Pop and blazing
Punk. Vocalist/guitarist Bridget Battle attacked her instrument with an
unbridled fury while finding the melodic core of every song,
particularly in evidence on the band's cover of "I'm Gonna Steal Your
Boyfriend" from Cincinnati girl group The Teardrops. Meanwhile, Peyton
Copes was charging through his bass runs like John Entwistle on meth and
Jerri Queen was doing his best Tommy Ramone impression, his drum kit
seemingly jumping off the stage.
Since I interviewed the band in April, Tweens has signed
with Frenchkiss Records and Bridget mentioned after their set that
they're headed to New York to record their label debut with Girls
Against Boys bassist and renowned producer Eli Janney. The album likely
won't be out until early next year, and with more shows like their
Saturday MidPoint slot, they'll have a legion of slobbering fans
clamoring for it.
Next up was Wussy, coming in to save the day for (or
perhaps from) the Foxygen situation. There were the requisite number of
Wussy moments; after soundcheck, where Chuck Cleaver instructed veteran
soundman Steve Girton to go heavy on the vocal reverb ("Make us sound
like we're in a cave …"), the set's launch was delayed while Mark
Messerly left for what seemed like an epic Tom Hanks League-of-Their-Own
piss and Lisa Walker entertained the waiting crowd with an Afternoon
Special story about Skinny and Fatty on rope day in gym class. With
Messerly sufficiently drained, Wussy offered an amped-up set of
favorites — Walker introduced a slinky version of "Airborne" as "an old
Curtis Mayfield song," and a stretched out "Yellow Cotton Dress" as
their "new Bossa Nova song … you can also do the Pony."
There were a couple of new songs sprinkled in the mix,
presumably from the album the band is currently working on, and all of
it was accompanied by former Ass Ponys guitarist John Erhardt on pedal
steel. What wasn't typical was the absolute brilliant noise emanating
from the stage; Wussy has played shows both monumental and desultory
that have either been short-circuited or made worse by shitty sound. On
Saturday, Wussy sounded like the world-class Rock band we all know them
Finally, it was time for Washington Park's main event for the evening, The Breeders' 20th anniversary presentation of Last Splash.
After a soundcheck that included a blistering version of Guided By
Voices' "Scalding Creek," which Kelley Deal and the Buffalo Killers had
done for the Sing For Your Meat tribute album, The Breeders took a
breath before ripping into "New Year," the opening volley on the album
that Pitchfork Media cited as the 64th best album of the '90s.
The assembled multitude, and there was a multitude of
them, roared their ecstatic approval after each song, particularly the
album's avowed hits, "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer." After finishing
up "Flipside," Kim Deal noted, "That was the last song on the first
side," to which everyone under 30 in the audience must have noted, "The
first side of what?," and after a blazing take on the album's longest
song, "Mad Lucas," Kim shouted, "Take that, Symphony!," likely a
reference to the fact that the band had to be done by exactly 8 p.m. for
the start of the CSO at Music Hall to avoid incurring a hefty fine for
The band was sharp and tight, Carrie Bradley was on hand
to provide necessary violin and keyboard accompaniment, Josephine Wiggs
laid down her massive bass groove and even switched places with master
basher Jim MacPherson to reprise her turn as drummer on "Roi." Wiggs may
have provided the sweetest moment of the night; after Kim noted that
coming to Cincinnati was like coming home for the band — the Deals and
MacPherson both had family contingents in the crowd —U.K. native Wiggs
told the faithful that the amount of time she’s spent in Ohio was
minimal, but the love she felt for and from it made it feel like home
for her as well, which resulted in a rousing response from the audience.
With the last strains of "Drivin' on 9/Roi (Reprise)" hanging in the
air, the call for one more had to go unfulfilled because of the Music
Hall start time. But given that this was the second Breeders show here
this year, it won't be too long before they'll be back with a complete
set and — dare we think it? — maybe some new songs.
After a bit of hanging around, I headed down to Grammer’s
for the screaming punkmeisters from the Great White North, ETZ. Sweet
holy mother — one minute it's three soft-spoken Canadian boys thanking
the crowd for their support, the next they're suddenly thrashing out a
triple-digit-decibel explosion that buries the needle so far into the
red you'd think the meters were broken. If they weren't, they are now.
Guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins plays like he's wearing jeans made of
fire ants and sings like Henry Rollins in a bathtub with a live toaster,
bassist Chris Slorach does his best impression of a rhythmic jet
approaching the sound barrier and drummer Hayden Menzies attacks his kit
with samurai ferocity and precision. METZ is Punk reborn, and it's a
kicking and screaming breech birth.
Next up was perhaps the weekend's highlight for me, the
appearance of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Every moment of a BRMC show
is an exultant tribute to the power of Rock, a pulsing prayer giving
thanks to the heavens for electricity, wood, wires, skins and tubs and
the ability to turn those raw elements into some of the most
bone-rattling music on the planet. Deftly switching from electric to
acoustic guitars without losing a decibel of impact, BRMC varied the
pace of the show only slightly, replacing quick tempos with slow,
surging power. As Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been orchestrated the
guitar ballet up front, Leah Shapiro offered up a tribal drum clinic at
the rear of the stage, pounding out a throbbing beat so primal and
palpable that airport traffic should have been rerouted around it.
The band didn't concentrate too much on their excellent new album, Specter at the Feast;
less than a third of their set was devoted to it. Certainly one of the
high points of the set was the inclusion of The Call's "Let the Day
Begin," done up in classic BRMC style as a tribute to Been's late father
Michael, The Call's powerful frontman and a producer/live sound
engineer/mentor for BRMC until his tragic fatal heart attack in Belgium
at the band's 2010 Pukkelpop Festival appearance. Much of Specter at the Feast
is melancholy, but the band's live shows now stand as a loud and
triumphant affirmation that BRMC is committed to going forward with a
vengeance. That stance was more than cemented when the band followed
their soaring take on "Let the Day Begin" with a blistering spin on
"Rival" from the new album and a razor sharp run through Howl's
"Ain't No Easy Way." Black Rebel Motorcycle Club left it all on
Grammer’s stage Saturday night, and we were only too glad to soak it all
In retrospect, it might have been a better course of
action to stay with BRMC until the end, but I'd really wanted to hit the
end of Cincinnati band The Ready Stance’s set and wish Wes Pence a
happy birthday, but Randy Cheek's blown bass amp fuse cut their set
short by one song. After wishing Wes many happy returns, I drifted up to
the MOTR to catch Wild Cub, but the club was absolutely packed and
seemed populated with a higher than normally allowable per capita
percentage of asshats. I'm clearly getting too old for
push-your-way-in-regardless-of-who's-already-there crowds, and I got the
fast fuck out of there.
After that, I wandered. I checked out a couple songs by
Cincy’s Sun Country, who seemed like they were on the way to an
exceptional set, but I suddenly found myself a bit on the light-headed
side, so I figured a run over to Mr. Hanton's would do me some good.
Proof that I was nearing the tipping point came when Mr. Hanton's dog
didn't make me week with joy. It wasn't any different than the
Smokehouse I'd had the night before, it was just my body starting to
I ran over to The Drinkery to catch a bit of Nashville’s
Sol Cat, which was joyfully boistrous and plenty loud to chase away any
end-of-MidPoint blues. Their sound mixes groovy Psych Rock with amped up
Nashville Soul and it's a powerful and smooth cocktail on a hot
Saturday night, and the packed audience they drew howled their
I bailed as Sol Cat's last song was ringing in The
Drinkery's rafters and headed down to the Know Theater to catch
Johnathan Rice's set. I thought it would be a chill way to finish up the
evening, thinking that he would be doing a solo acoustic thing. But
Rice came loaded with a full band and they proceeded to crank out a
sound that seemed reminiscent of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The
Jayhawks in spots, very much in keeping with the vibe of his quite
excellent new album, Good Graces. He also cranked out a track from his 2012 Jenny and Johnny release, I'm Having Fun Now
(a collaboration with his girlfriend, ex-Rilo Kiley spark
plug/successful solo artist Jenny Lewis), and touching on his previous
solo albums, 2005's Trouble is Good and 2007's Further North.
My personal favorite part of the show was when a woman was desperately
trying to drag her guy closer to the stage, presumably to dance, which
he was having none of, apparently. Rice noticed the situation and said,
"Let the man be. He's fine." Well done, Mr. Rice, just like your all too
brief set, which happened to be a perfect end to a perfect weekend.
SATURDAY NOTES:• Washington Park was a crazy scene on Saturday. First up
was the not-very-ubiquitous Mike Breen (who was suffering from some
mutant military flu, so no Iron John hugs for him), who happens to be my
immediate superior (and probably my superior in many other ways) and
writer Gil Kaufman; we were quickly joined by former CityBeat
mahout John Fox. After a bit of a chat, I offered to buy John one of the
several dozen beers I owe him, but he deferred until later.
• Then it was Paul Roberts, Big Jim and Paul's sister,
whose name continually escapes me. It's Paul's fault; he constantly
refers to her as "my sister." It was the same problem with his buddies;
"You know the guys." I'm old and I require constant reinforcement and
I'm too embarrassed to ask and I'm usually drunk. That's not true; I'm
always stupid and I'm occasionally drunk. Anyway, she's a wonderful
person and bought me a beer, so she's in the Hall of Fame on the first
ballot, no questions asked. Except the obvious one.
• Then I happened into one of my absolute favorite guys on
the planet, Mr. Kip Roe, bassist extraordinaire and truly one of the
best human beings you can hope to encounter (at least as far as
musicians hanging around Rock shows are concerned). He was squiring his
young sons around Washington Park; not surprisingly, Kip's sons are
every bit as smart and personable as their dad. We had a good long talk
about a whole lot of life, and I can tell you this without hesitation or
doubt — my personal existence and the world as a whole is better
because Kip Roe is in it.
• John came around for the Wussy show so I fetched him the
first down payment on the buckets of brewski that constitute my
longstanding debt to him. Of course, if he'd paid me better, I could
have gotten a start on this a lot sooner. I'm just saying.
• At some point during The Breeders' set, a woman came up
to me and said, "You look like a music writer." Then she smiled really
broadly. And I stood there exactly like the enormous dope that I am.
First, she had black rimmed glasses and her hair pinned up and she
looked like Lisa Loeb, who I did not see on the schedule this year.
Second, I have actually gotten that "You look like a music writer" thing
from people in the past (typically when I'm listening to music and
writing), so I was processing that response. Third, I had only had one
beer, so clearly I was not nearly intoxicated enough. It turned out be
Amy Firis, boss Breen's super nice squeeze, who is always incredibly
lovely to me but who looked nothing like I remembered her in that
moment. Maybe it was the glasses (no, I think she had those last time),
the hair (hairstyle changes confuse me; I once had carnal thoughts about
a woman walking down Clifton Avenue when I realized it was my
girlfriend in her newly tinted and shortened do, which was great because
I figured I had a slightly better chance with her than with the hot
stranger I thought she was) or the question. At any rate, forgive an old dufus, Amy. You disappeared before I could formally extract my hoof
from my piehole.
• After Josephine Wiggs' admission that Ohio felt like
home for her, the next most Hallmark-y moment came when Breeders guitar
tech and uberbooked local producer Mike Montgomery (who performs as R.
Ring with Kelley Deal and was nearly unrecognizable in his newly shaven
look) gave Kip Roe's son Ben the band's set list from the stage, which
Ben and his older brother Kip took backstage and got signed by the whole
band. When Ben caught up with Wiggs and violinist Carrie Bradley, he
told Bradley that he wanted to play the violin too and that seeing her
play with the band was the best part of the show for him. Bradley looked
like she was on the verge of tears. Me too.
• Jay Metz was at the METZ show and was trying to scrounge
up the scratch to buy a METZ T-shirt, because who wouldn't do that? If a
band is ever desperate enough to name themselves Baker, I'm getting
that shirt, bet your ass.
• There were a whole lot of humans at the BRMC set. It was
asshole-to-elbow under the tent. Almost immediately, I ran into Mark
Houk and his lovely girl Jesi and they immediately set about the
business of getting a beer in my hand. How do I love thee? Let me count
the beers … I mean ways. You're in the Hall, dude. Brian Kitzmiller
showed up about the time I was ready to make my move into the tent, and
who should I run into but that gauge of all things cool, King Slice, who
was clearly digging BRMC. A few songs in, I noticed a rather tall guy
in a rather dapper vest trying to navigate his way into the Grammer's
sauna tent who turned out to be tall, dapper local singer/songwriter
Josh Eagle. See above description of Kip Roe; copy and paste here.
• I ducked out of BRMC to head down to The Ready Stance
gig, since it was the effervescent and superlative-worthy Wes Pence's
birthday. We had crossed paths at the end of The Breeders' set, but were
headed in different directions so I figured to catch up with Wes (copy,
paste again) in his less ephemeral state at The Drinkery. I got there
in time to see their next to last song, which turned out to be their
last song when Randy Cheek blew a fuse in his bass amp. If you've got to
blow a fuse, it should be like that, I suppose. Here's a question; can a
band of guys as nice as The Ready Stance make it in the cutthroat music
business? God, I hope so.
• Ran into CityBeat/MPMF chief Dan Bockrath and his
girlfriend Martha on my way down from the Wild Cub debacle. Dan
actually apologized for not being in a position to buy me a beer. Apologized.
Yet another princely move from a guy who's already seriously Hall of
Famed. You don't have to buy me a beer every single time we meet, Dan.
Every other time will do just fine.
• Moments later, it was Kelly Thomas on the sidewalk. Is
there anyone in the scene right now who cares about it all as much as
Kelly? I think not.
• By the end of Johnathan Rice's excellent set, it was
12:30 a.m. and there were a handful of bands I could have stuck around
for, but I was done it at that point. My back and knees were screaming
at me like Adrienne Barbeau in Swamp Thing so I knew it was time
to go. I ran into Big Jim on the sidewalk, who had taken time out from
MidPoint to see Sarah Jarosz in Hamilton, and he was headed to Below
Zero to catch a shot with Paul. For a fleeting moment, I considered
joining him but my brain sent me a message through the normal channels
that if I deviated in any direction away from walking straight to the
car, I'd drop like Michael Cera in a bar fight with Floyd Mayweather. I
bid him well and headed for the car and home.
• Rewind: I crossed paths any number of times with the
always incredible local band/event manager Venomous Valdez, and somehow
she managed to skate right across my frontal lobe in the previous two
postings. There are a handful of people who do some fairly impressive
things for the local music scene and bring an almost single-minded
passion and drive to the pursuit of exposing local artists to this
community and to the world at large. And they'll have to work a hell of a
lot harder just to see Venomous disappearing on the horizon ahead of
them. Like McCabe, we are lucky to have her in our midst.
• Rewind again: Ran into Jeremy Springer of Cincinnati’s
The Sundresses at Arnold's on Friday night, doing the Lord's work of
making sure that food and drink multiplied onto every table in the
courtyard. e noted that The Sundresses were headed to Detroit for a
recording session and that the resultant album would be imminent shortly
thereafter. It can't come soon enough.
• Once again, apologies to anyone who feels slighted if
they didn't see our MidPoint interaction detailed here. The constraints
of writing this thing in a timely fashion for posting on the CityBeat
website necessarily means some things go in, most things are left out.
The better part of my life is on the cutting room floor, so don't feel
bad. Maybe next year you'll do something even more outrageous and
quotable and you'll wind up in the embarrassing position of my providing
written evidence that you actually hung out with me for a proscribed
period of time. Then you'll be sorry.
• Another fabulous MidPoint in the books, and while we
were without the essential presence of my pal Matthew Fenton, there
plenty of absolutely brilliant folk to take his estimable place. First
and foremost, as always, A huge tip of an oversized cap to Dan McCabe,
the spark plug that fires up this engine year after year. We cannot
thank you enough for the superhuman dedication you put into booking this
amazing event (you would look smashing in a cape). And to whoever
posted the tweet about turning MidPoint into a semi-annual deal, March
would probably be a good time. Dan will still be hibernating then, so
the author of said tweet should probably get started now on putting that
together for all of us. Let us know how your breakdown turns out.
• Endless thanks also to the tireless (but probably
extremely tired) volunteers who carry this thing on their capable but
seriously overtaxed backs for three days every September. You are the
true heroes of MidPoint. And of course, thanks to the venues who host
the music, to the bands who make a supreme effort to get here
(especially the ones who are already here) and to the mostly cool people
who come to support them. See you all in some form or fashion in 2014.
by Brian Baker
This is the midpoint of MidPoint, the second of the three
holy days of September. A day of great adventure and great potential for
misadventure that exceeds the anticipation of Day 1 and the inevitable
denouement of Day 3. A day to love. But first you've got to get there,
and an even longer drive down I-75 this afternoon meant that I was
forced to miss Izzy & the Catastrophics (Note: Izzy and Co.
rescheduled and play today at 6:15 p.m. on the Midway AND at Japp's at
12:30 a.m.) on the Midway and on the Midway and American Royalty at
Washington Park. And my teeth are considerably flatter. Tomorrow I take
my chances with the surface roads.
First up on the agenda was the third band on my Friday
schedule, my beloved Black Owls at the Grammer's stage. With their
brilliantly hallucinatory film projection playing out on the tent
ceiling just above their heads, the band clicking with shambling
precision and frontman David Butler in the middle of a 10-day cleanse
(Five days without beer? Madness, I tell you, madness...), the Owls
roared through a set that offered plenty of familiar favorites and a
couple of brand new tunes slated for their imminent fourth album, Wild Children, the first to feature input from the full quintet.
As per usual, the chiming guitars of Ed Shuttleworth and
Brandon Losacker offered glammy tribute to the gods Hunter and Ronson,
while the intuitive headkick of rhythm section Sammy Wulfeck and Brian
Kitzmiller ran like clockwork, if the clock in question is Big Ben. And
David Butler continues to serve as vocalist/ringmaster, a perpetually
compelling stage presence combining witty banter ("We're your Black
Owls, supported by your tax dollars..."), kicky athleticism and a vocal
presentation that thrillingly suggests Ian Hunter's mournful croon,
David Byrne's artful warble and the jittery wonder of Jerry Casale. The
only thing better than seeing the Black
Owls is seeing them again. They will be returning to the
Northside Tavern in December; give yourself the gift of the Black Owls
this holiday season, won't you?
I hung around and talked with the various Owls and their
various lovely wives while Secret Colours provided a pulsing Psych/Space
Rock-meets-Classic Rock soundtrack. Flecks of The Doors and Velvet
Underground filtered through kaleidoscopic blotter tabs of the Brian
Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols turned up to a Spinal Tappish
and completely satisfying 11; that's the stock-in-trade of Secret
Colours. A lot of the subtlety of their sophomore album Peach gets
shaved off in their live presentation (although the melodica was a nice
touch), but the band ably replaces it with a muscular and voluminous
vibe that reverberates in your chest like a second heart.
From there, it was a brisk walk down to The Drinkery to
catch The Kickaways who were using their MidPoint show to officially
launch their sophomore album, Show Yr Teeth. It's an appropriate
title since that's exactly what the band does on their latest effort,
amplifying and refining all the elements that defined their 2011 debut, America! America! Although frontman Charlie Lynn played some guitar on Show Yr Teeth,
he made the conscious decision to set it aside in The Kickaways' live
configuration. That boils the band down to their charismatic lead
vocalist and a tight-as-a-gnat's-ass power trio, a formula that worked
pretty well for The Who, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Black Sabbath.
Last night, it was the latter that seemed the most potent
reference point, as The Kickaways seemed to be channeling Ozzy and the
boys circa Paranoid but with the swaggering ethic of a great
Psych-tinged garage band. Up front, Lynn was garage glamor personified,
with leather jacket, a plaid shirt tied like a skirt at his waist and
several layers of T-shirts, the top one reading "It Girl." No longer
pinned down by guitar duty, Lynn was a singing dervish, occasionally
banging a tambourine but generally flying around the stage and howling
with mad but precise abandon. Guitarist/vocalist Remi Glistovski largely
kept his head down and focused on producing riffs of Richter Scale
proportions while Jacob Ittle inhabited his role as bassist with the
mindset of a rhythm guitarist and drummer Adam Lambchop literally moved
the air with his punishing skills, banging his kit with the authority of
a skinny John Bonham. The Kickaways are more than ready for their Big Time close-up.
I reluctantly bailed on the end of the Kickaways' set to
head up to the MOTR Pub to bask in the Pop/Rock splendor of Cincinnati's
Tigerlilies. Pat Hennessy has been working this corner since forming
the band in 1989 and while the band has gone through a few guitar
partners (renowned and beloved oddball William Weber, former Lazy
guitarist Steve Schmoll, guitarist-turned-producer Denny Brown) and
several tweaks to his Power Pop concept, the Tigerlilies' core has
always remained Hennessy on vocals and guitar up front and the durable
rhythm section of brother Steve Hennessy on hammering drums and Brian
Driscoll on thundering bass. Hennessy's latest guitar foil may well be
the best in a long line of great six-stringers; Brendan Bogosian has an
impeccable resume (TheWoos, Cash Flagg, Kry Kids, among others) and his
razor-sharp skills and Pop/Rock nuance make him perfectly sympatico for
Hennessy's punky take on crunchy Power Pop. Tigerlilies' just-released In the Dark
may well stand as the best work in their excellent catalog, and this
version of the band is clearly the reason as evidenced by the wall of
sound emanating from the MOTR stage last night.
From there, it was a long walk down to Arnold's for the ecstatic blister of Cincinnati's Heavy Hinges. The band may have started out last year
channeling the spirit of old Gospel 78s and Alan Lomax field recordings
but they have graduated to an electric church service that pumps like an
oil derrick with a swing sweeter than Ted Williams. It's Blues with a
touch of Jazz with a heart needle full of adrenaline. Guitarists Dylan
Speeg and Jeremy Singer can go from textured nuance to hot Jazz/Blues
riffmongering in the blink of an eye, frontwoman Maya Banatwala works a
lyric with the dramatic/comedic flair of a 21st century flapper (and
bangs that ukulele like Betty Van Halen) and the slippery rhythm section
of bassist Andrew Laudeman and drummer Brian Williamson establishes the ever shifting heartbeat of the band with intuitive brilliance.
In the Hinges' hands, "Ain't No Grave" sounded like it had
been arranged by Carlos Santana, but it's the band's originals that
stick in the mind and danced-off-ass the longest; "Mean Old City"
offered up the band's patented thump-and-grind and "In My Dreams" showed
their flair for electric Flamenco or something just like it. Banatwala
noted that she doesn't celebrate Christmas, so MidPoint is her Christmas
(Merry MidPoint, Maya!), and Speeg was at his cheeky best between songs
("The women in here tonight look like they were picked by Lenny Kravitz
…"). If there's a more accomplished and diverse band in Cincinnati than
Heavy Hinges, it's a safe bet that they're not half as entertaining. I
could be wrong or drunk or both, but I don't think so.
And then it was midnight and time for my overall MidPoint
pick, The Technicolors from beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, an area not
necessarily known for its music scene. I had picked them to preview on a
whim and listening to the music they I could find online absolutely
floored me. In the preview blurb I namechecked Cheap Trick, Big Star,
The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Todd Rundgren, Kula Shaker and Nada
Surf. I stand behind any and all of that, but after witnessing their
live assault, I can honestly say that it all comes together as The
Technicolors, which now seems like a perfectly apt name.
In the studio, The Technicolors are formidable alchemists,
transforming their influences into buzzing, crunching gold that becomes
more appealing with each successive listen. On stage, the band taps
into that primal sense of elation that occurs in the earliest moments of
teenage discovery, when music is new and the vistas of what to explore
next seem limitless. The Technicolors possess the aforementioned sonic
reference points to be sure, but what they evoke as a band funneling all
those sounds into their astonishing singularity is a return to that
viscerally magic moment in personal history when one loses one's cherry
Last night at the uberfabulous MOTR Pub, The Technicolors
were a force of nature, the furies of Rock unbound. The twin guitar
attack of frontman Brennan Smiley and Mikey Farizza were like David
Copperfield's giant buzzsaws; potentially dangerous but ultimately
entertaining. Bassist Mike "Nico" Nicolette
looked as though he was having more fun than the audience as he joyfully
bottomed the sound with a sinewy and insistent pulse, which was further
anchored by drummer Kevin Prociw's purposeful bashathon. And tour
keyboardist Troi Lownei (he appears on a couple of songs on the band's
exquisite album Listener) added a dash of Radioheadness to the proceedings (if Radiohead had jumper cables attached to their undercarriages).
Their studio version of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game"
supplants the original's icy cool detachment with a passionate embrace
but in the live arena, the band plays up the sense of impending doom
inherent in the "I don't want to fall in love" theme. And "Sweet Time"
may simply be one of the best live translations of an already powerful
song that I've been lucky enough to witness in four bloody decades of
standing in front of bands.
Are The Technicolors the future of Rock and Roll? I
wouldn't hang that albatross on any band, particularly one I love. The
Technicolors will make you feel things about Rock that you haven't felt
for a very long time, and that should be more than enough to recommend
FRIDAY NOTES:• As Black Owls frontman David Butler was explaining his cleanse — his wife Amy is supporting by joining him — which features 10
beerless days, he noted that he's never felt better and his voice has
never been stronger. Goose frontman Jason Arbenz aptly observed, "He's
going to turn himself into some kind of superhero." I think he may
already be there, dude.
• It was great catching up with the Owls and the Mrs. Owls
(Amy Butler, Carrie Losacker and Sarah Kitzmiller). The ubiquitous King
Slice, the barometer of all that is cool, was in attendance as was
former CityBeat worker bee Sara Beiting, a pretty decent hipness
indicator her own bad self. And Mark Houk from Sohio confessed to chills
during the new Black Owls song, "Gasoline." I predict that's going to
be going around soon, my friend.
• As I walked into The Drinkery, I was met by the whole of
Alone at 3AM. They weren't hanging out in a bunch like The Monkees,
they were getting ready for their imminent set after The Kickaways.
Chris Mueller put a Yuengling in my empty hand and filled my empty head
with joy. Brandon Losacker appeared to be handing me a beer during The
Kickaways set but he quickly disabused me of that notion; it was meant
as a toast. Note to everyone: if you look like you're handing me a beer,
I'm going to look like I'm accepting it. Brandon did drop a shot of
Jameson's in front of me, which will earn him a plaque upgrade in the
Hophead Hall of Fame.
• On my way down to Mr. Hanton's (who now has a brick and
morter store on Calhoun) to get a wonderful and nutritious Handwich
(which is a hot dog as big as a Cuban cigar … I recommend the
Smokehouse), I vaguely thought I heard someone yell my name, but I've
been hearing voices lately and they seem to know me, so I gave it the
same attention I reserve for car horns in parking lots which now go off
for no other reason than someone locking their door. Luckily the hailing
party was not part of my drug-fueled hallucinogenic past but the
flesh-and-blood person of Ready Stance guitarist/vocalist Wes Pence. We
vowed to meet at the Tigerlilies gig and did. Another way I knew he was
real. I'm fairly sure.
• Also taking in the vast Power Pop beauty of Tigerlilies
(and while I have the internet's attention, no, you overbearing
suggestion Google dicks, I do not mean Tiger Lilies, I mean what I
fucking well typed) were damn near all of Culture Queer — Jeremy
Lesniak, who produced Tigerlilies' In the Dark, Dana Hamblen and
Sam Womelsdorf, Fairmount Girls' Melissa Fairmount, the aforementioned
Wes Pence and a couple of guys who remembered me from my Short Vine
days in the late '80s — except they thought I was Jimmy Davidson. I told
them I worked the counter at Wizard Records, but I don't think they
believed me. I could have badly played any guitar in the joint to prove
my identity, but it was just nice to be remembered.
• Sara Beiting was also hanging at Tigerlilies, along with
perpetual MPMF and raconteur Jay Metz, who brought along Shuggie Otis'
brother and drummer, Nick Otis. We had a brief but nice chat, got some
pictures together and bid adieu. Shuggie had already left for a gig in
Toronto, but Nick and some of the band stuck around to catch some
MidPoint sounds before a 5 a.m. flight. Yargh. Hope they made it on time
• Brian Kitzmiller and his lovely wife Sarah also dropped
in on the Tigerlilies. Brian actually bought me a beer but I didn't
catch up with him until I was on the sidewalk outside the MOTR and was
on my way down to the next thing. Sorry I stuck you with two beers,
dude. I'm pretty sure you took care of it. While I was apologizing for
making Brian appear to be a two-fisted alcoholic, Sarah pointed out a
guy dressed in what seemed to be tin foil Post-It notes, which may have
been advertising or just an odd fashion choice. If you'll recall from
this space an almost unbelievable five years, Sarah, a first grade
teacher, went to Staples to buy Post-It notes and actually had some
stuck in her hair. Brian had told me the story, and the next night at
Arnold's, I met Sarah for the first time. When Brian introduced us, I
excused myself, reached into my pack, pulled out a handful of Post-Its,
stuck them in my hair and shook her hand. So Post-Its are kind of our
thing. And I was glad she pointed out the tin foil Post-It guy, because I
saw him as I walked out the door but I chose to ignore it, just in case
it was another alcohol fueled flashback to the acid days of yesteryear.
As long as she saw it too, it was all good.
• Right on cue, King Slice strolled into the Heavy Hinges
gig and anointed it as the cool place to be at 11 p.m. on MidPoint's
second night. And so it came to pass. Also making an appearance right
before I was ready to hit the sidewalk was former Buckra guitarist and
ever-present MPMF staffer Jacob Heintz, checking out his old bandmates
and hanging around waiting for the next emergency, which I hope never
came. It never seems like a complete MidPoint experience until I've had a
chat with Jacob, so now it is.
• Plenty of folks in attendance at the Technicolors soiree
back up at the MOTR, which I hope I had at least a little something to
do with. My pal Paul Roberts was there to buy me a fabulous beer from
the MOTR's endless taps, with his buds Big Jim and Little Stu in tow.
Stu even had a hat made with his name on it so I'd bloody well remember
that his name is Stu. If he had said, "My name is Stu, how do you do?"
that might have been perfect. The hat was pretty awesome at any rate. If
I forget Stu now, it will be evidence of drug backlash or a stroke.
Just so you know.
• I spied former CityBeat editor John Fox in the
MOTR crowd so I headed over to say hello. As I have explained in the
past, I owe John an incredible debt of gratitude for recruiting me for CityBeat
nearly 20 years ago and for insisting that I write features for him
rather than reviews. It was literally a life-changing conversation, and I
can't begin to thank him enough for the opportunity he gave me in the
beginning and his faith and guidance in the subsequent years. Once again, he left
before I could get that beer into his hand … I'm clearly going to have
to drive the truck up to his house. The only thing is I don't know where
he lives; his faith in me, it would seem, had limits, which I
completely understand. Thanks again for everything, John, you gave me a
chance to be a part of something special. My current status as a
poverty-wracked, free-beer-swilling hack is all on me.
• I tried to get down to the Mainstay in time to see some
of Bella Clava's set because their appearance at The Drinkery last year
was one of the festival's highlights for me. Sadly, they had just
finished when I pulled up, but I did get a chance to chat with
keyboardist Caitlin Dacey and guitarist Steve Suttie as they loaded out.
As it turned out, the band is staying with Honeyspiders frontman Jeremy
Harrison, whose new outfit also played on the evening's Mainstay bill.
Honeyspiders is clearly a band to keep on the radar; the limited recordings they've shared to date are potent evidence that something big is going on there
by Deirdre Kaye
Great news, y’all! I made it through another MidPoint without getting raped or mugged. (Getting mugged might not be so bad, though. “No, officer, it was definitely not me who bought Duck Dynasty underwear at Walmart.”) I know you were concerned for my safety.I did MPMF quite a bit differently than I have in years past and I have to say, I think it contributed to it being the best one yet for me.First, I forwent going with friends. I like my friends in small doses and on a couch talking about TV and girlfriends/boyfriends. Trying to coordinate concert plans with them, though, has always been an ordeal. Some of us are more hipster than others. Going it alone sometimes feels slightly sketchy, but mostly I think it helped my experience. I wasn’t forced to stand in any hot, cram packed rooms to see bands I was less-than-thrilled to see.Second, I decided to spend my entire Saturday night in just one venue. I did this for a few reasons: 1) Everyone I wanted to see was in that venue; 2) Cheap parking close-by. Therefore, I spent my Saturday night either pacing around outside the Taft Theatre or swaying back and forth inside the Taft’s Ballroom. And, ya know what? I had a damn good time.The Taft is my favorite venue in town. Whether it’s in the seated portion or down in the basement, it just has an amazing vibe. I love those bright white bulb-lights out front around the marquee. It makes the whole place sparkle. It just looks like you could pick it up and sit it in the middle of Gatsby’s New York City. Downtown Cincy has plenty of art deco touches that I dearly love. However, nothing makes me feel more fancy and more ready for a special night than standing outside the Taft. In addition, the basement Ballroom, where all three of Saturday’s bands performed, has this comfortable, almost sexy darkness to it. You could get into a little bit of trouble in some of those shadowed corners. I wouldn’t judge you if you have. I might be disappointed you never invited me, though.Bear’s Den opened the night and, since I’d seen them recently, I didn’t feel too bad when I spent the better part of their set outside on the phone. It gave me the chance to people watch, which is always a ton of fun at MidPoint. MPMF pulls in a jumbled assortment of people to tramp around downtown with their wristbands. I saw people my parents’ age, dressed rather fancifully, chat with security and then slip down into the basement. I also saw an insane amount of frat guys, plus one very drunk Reds fan and his seriously concerned girlfriend. (I still don’t know why she unleashed her concern to me. But I really hope she finds a new date for next year. Like, maybe someone who won’t put her life in danger?) Oh! And I saw one seriously fabulous drag queen. (I appreciate your use of neon, girlfriend.)Despite missing London’s Bear’s Den, I know they rocked. Not just because I’ve seen them and I love them, but because they still had a line of fans waiting to meet them when the final act went on at midnight. I think Cincinnati fell in love on Saturday. I’m giddy for Bear’s Den and for Cincinnati. Good choice, my friends.I caught Cincinnati’s Bad Veins, though. Of course, I’ve seen them before, but I never mind the chance to see them again. Those two boys can make a ton of noise. Even with a few sound/mixing issues, they still managed to keep the room enthralled. That may have had something to do with Ben Davis’ bellowing into the microphone or climbing to the top of the monitors. I have no musical talent whatsoever and my balance is minimal at best, but I was envious as he stood towering above me with his hands on the ceiling and an entire room of people staring up at him in awe. The Veins are a genuinely good band. Not “good for a local band,” but good enough to root for them to keep gaining fans across the country. Later, I watched Davis stand in the back of the room talking to a couple people for a surprisingly long time. They seemed to devour everything he said. He has dangerous levels of charisma. It was fun to watch.As much as I love Bad Veins and Bear’s Den, I’d spent all weekend eagerly awaiting Daughter’s performance. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect many people to show. I guess because I remember when “Daughter” was just Elena Tonra. I slinked my way pretty close to the stage and gaped at Tonra as she charmed the pants off everyone in the room. When it got stuffy a few songs in, I turned around and was speechless by the sheer amount of people that had suddenly come in behind me. It makes sense, though. Jesus. Her voice is beautiful. If you were anywhere else in the city on Saturday night, you messed up. She sent heads to the shoulders of girlfriends and, shockingly enough, most cell phones managed to stay in purses and pockets. It’s not that she wasn’t worth capturing. It’s that she was too captivating for anyone to have any other thoughts other than keeping their eyes glued to her face and their ears filled with her voice. Oh. The bow across the electric guitar was a great (albeit not very new) approach, too. It added a nice eerie feel to Tonra’s already haunting voice.As I left, I had big plans to reflect on the concerts and do a little pre-writing for this review while walking to my car. One of my favorite former co-workers waylaid me, though. So much for avoiding my friends. Cincinnati is too small for that. I didn’t mind too much; I got all the dirt on who had left and who (sadly) was still around. Eventually, I said goodbye to my ex co-worker, wandered away from Taft Theatre’s bright lights and into the ever darkening street. As I meandered, it occurred to me just how much of a feat MPMF is for us. Cincinnati may be a city, but we’re not a very big one. How do we manage to talk so many stellar bands into visiting us every year? How is it possible we have something as beautiful as the Taft? How do we produce such a bounty of awesome local bands? My best friend likes to joke that Ohio has bred more astronauts than any other state. He says it’s because Ohio is awful and space was as far away as they could get. However, I think we’ve bred so many astronauts for the same reason we’ve spawned bands like Walk the Moon and Bad Veins and all of the other great acts playing MPMF and for the same reason we put on such an great festival. We’re small but mighty. We put our hearts into the things and the people we love. Even if they don’t deserve it. (I’m lookin’ at you, Bengals.)
by Brian Baker
Last night was a glorious night for music and glorious
music was made. Combinations don't get much better than that. Things
didn't start so well, though; a quick e-mail on Wednesday revealed that,
for a variety of reasons, my friend Matthew Fenton wouldn't be making
his annual pilgrimage from Chicago to our fair festival. And then the
drive down I-75 was infuriatingly stop-and-go for no apparent reason,
which had me grinding my teeth all the way downtown.
Every molecule of that dour energy was dissipated with the
first show of the night as Cody ChesnuTT hit the Washington Park stage
like a hydrogen bomb of positive vibration.
ChesnuTT's MidPoint appearance was also his Cincinnati debut and the sizable crowd that showed up to witness it
was completely enthralled with his potent blend of Neo Soul, Reggae,
Jazz and Pop.
ChesnuTT doesn't dress the part of Soul crooner; graphic
T-shirt covered in cassettes, red cardigan, black sweats and an army
helmet. The helmet is an odd sartorial choice, but ChesnuTT has
explained that he's "fighting to keep the soul alive." Not the musical
genre, but the spiritual essence at the center of all human beings.
That's a pretty big mission for a singer/songwriter to assign himself,
but last night's performance proved that ChesnuTT is more than up to the
Drawing strictly from last year's gorgeous Landing on a Hundred (he no longer does any songs from 2002's The Headphone Masterpiece,
feeling that he's moved beyond the events in his life that inspired
that album), ChesnuTT blew any trace of negativity into the stratosphere
and replaced it with a rock-solid groove (courtesy of his absolutely
stellar band) and a message of pure love. Not Barry White
let's-ease-them-panties-down love, but love of self, love of mankind,
love of life, which should ultimately lead to unconditional love for one
Not that ChesnuTT doesn't recognize the world's
dysfunction. In his brilliant "Everybody's Brother," he sings, "I used
to smoke crack back in the day/I used to gamble rent money and lose/I
used to dog nice ladies, used to swindle friends/But now I'm teaching
kids in Sunday school and I'm not turning back." On the album, the song
thumps along on a hearty Funk beat, but on stage, ChesnuTT delivers that
opening verse with a sermon-like intonation, and the band swells around
him with Gospel fervor and Soul intensity.
No matter what vibe ChesnuTT is channeling at any
particular point in the show, he is a master showman, imploring the
audience to join him, engaging them to become an integral part of the
proceedings. And when he sings, when he digs deep into his creative core
and unleashes his soul though his vocal cords, sweet mother of all
that's holy, he sounds like the reincarnation of Marvin Gaye, the little
brother that Stevie Wonder didn't know he had and the lost Marley
sibling all rolled into one otherworldly package. Anyone who was not
smiling at the end of Cody ChesnuTT's performance last night is damaged
beyond the help of therapy and psychoactive drugs. Please come back to
see us again soon, Cody. If Foxygen's slot is still open, Saturday night
would be just fine. (Editor’s note: Cincy’s fantastic Wussy has claimed
Foxygen’s Washington Park slot tomorrow.)
After Cody ChesnuTT's splendorous opening, it was
Blues/Rock legend Shuggie Otis' turn to lead the Washington Park
congregation, which he did in scorching style. Otis was barely in his
teens when he started playing guitar with his father, R&B icon
Johnny Otis, ultimately leading to session work with Al Kooper and Frank
Zappa when he was just 16, and his 1970 debut solo album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis,
at 17. And while Shuggie has laid low for long stretches in his nearly
50-year career, his current resurgence is sweet vindication for those
periods when an indifferent music industry ignored his virtuosic
brilliance, forcing Shuggie to turn away from the industry.
Shuggie's set started a little hesitantly as he acclimated
to the stage set-up; at one point, he jokingly asked, "Can somebody
show me how to work this shit?" Somebody did and he was off, peeling off
incendiary riffs and razor sharp runs with a casual intensity. The
set's sole slow spot was a new song called "Special," that sounded like
Shuggie copying the numerous Pop artists who have copied him, but he
followed it with a blazing version of "Me and My Woman" that erupted
from the stage like a volcano and oozed through the assembled multitude
with the heat and inevitability of the resultant lava flow. Once he and
his stellar band got going, Shuggie Otis provided a transcendent moment
in MidPoint history, the redemptive return of an astonishing talent that
should never have gone away in the first place.
Only one thing could have dragged me away from the
hair-raising, slack-jawed wonder of Shuggie Otis, and that's the
triumphant return of Cincinnati’s Mad Anthony. Since the July van
accident that could have been the band's literal epitaph, drummer Marc
Sherlock was restrained by a neck brace and an order against all
relatively physical activity. Outside of a little rhythmic tapping to
keep his chops up, Sherlock was virtually drumless for three months,
while guitarists Ringo Jones and Adam Flaig hit the road for some
acoustic dates to keep the rent money coming, then set off for its first
cross-country tour, which culminated with last night’s homecoming.
And so Mad Anthony took the triangular stage at The
Drinkery, their first show with their full current lineup since the
accident that nearly cost them everything. Jones and Flaig brought
plenty of their patented frenzy to their acoustic gigs, but they've
clearly missed their hypertalented timekeeper, which was evident from
the visceral fury that permeated every note of last night's show.
Sherlock couldn't have looked any happier; with every roll, every cymbal
crash, every massive kick, his smile was a permanent fixture, and Jones
and Flaig responded with a tumultuous joy that was a palpable presence
in the room.
At a normal Mad Anthony show, the trio storms into an
audience's frontal lobe with incomprehensible power. If The Stooges ate
Black Sabbath and shit out three perfectly formed babies the next day
that grew up and absorbed Punk, Pop and Rock influences like a bar
towel, then wrung out those influences into shot glasses and downed them
one liquor/beer/sweat/adrenaline slug, that would be Mad
Anthony. Last night's return to The Drinkery was all that amplified to
the third power. Naturally, they finished with "We Love This Fucking
City." Naturally, this fucking city loves Mad Anthony. It's worked out
After the major nut-kick of Mad Anthony, I tooled down to
Arnold's to catch some Beatlesque sweetness courtesy of Canada’s The
Shilohs. They were really quite good, and I definitely wanted to hear
more of them, but they seemed intent on a mid-tempo set in the key of
"If I Fell," and I wasn't quite in the mood for that. So I headed back
to The Drinkery to catch locals Frontier Folk Nebraska's set.
After Mad Anthony's blistering presentation, I chatted up
Kelly Thomas for a few minutes outside The Drinkery, and she had noted
that Frontier Folk Nebraska was veering in a decidedly more electric
direction, rather a shift from their traditional acoustic roots. When
The Shilos didn't pan out for me, I decided to witness FFN's electric
evolution for myself. Good decision.
The new FFN is plugged in and ready to whip any ass in the
house. Imagine a world where The Ass Ponys channel Crazy Horse and the
Bottle Rockets and Uncle Tupelo and you'll be close to the barely
restrained muscle emanating from the new Frontier Folk Nebraska. All of
this was evident on the band's eponymous 2011 album, but it's magnified
to an incredible scale in the live setting. FFN recently lost founding
bassist Steve Oder to a graduate program, which could have seriously
altered the band's chemistry, but new bassist Matthew McCormick seems to
have settled in nicely, alternating between a pulsing beat and runs
that emulate lead solos, forming a slinky rhythm section with drummer
Nathan Wagner. Meanwhile, frontman Michael Hensley and Travis Talbert
create a tandem guitar attack that perfectly balances nuance and power. I
liked where FFN was and I love where they are.
After FFN, I found my car and took a drive down to the
Mainstay to catch London's blazing Rock power trio Leogun.
Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Smith is a revelation, a genetic hybrid of
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in one electrified body, wringing sounds
from his guitar that invoke all the greatest '70s translators of the
Blues while maintaining a firm stance in the 21st century. Anchored by
the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Matt Johnson and drummer Mike
Lloyd, as slippery and as solid as Entwistle and Moon, Leogun swaggers
and swings with retro inspiration and contemporary energy. They peeled
through a set filled with tracks from their phenomenal debut, By the Reins,
but one of the highlights was their completely unexpected and
timber-rattling take on Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie." Not sure
when they'll be back, but I'll be there when they return.
• Music editor Mike Breen informed me that publisher Dan
Bockrath was going to be making with the beers this year, but I had no
idea he would begin his hop blitzkrieg so quickly and voluminously. Dan
found me in the crowd at the start of Cody ChesnuTT's set and put a beer
in my hand immediately. And just as I finished that first one, Dan
reappeared at my side with yet another, claiming, "I feel so good I had
to double down." After this MidPoint, I may be able to build a new wing
onto the Beer Buying Hall of Fame with Dan's empties alone. You are a
god that walks among men, Dan Bockrath, and I hope to see you every
night this weekend.
• During Cody's lovely and moving "Love is More Than a
Wedding Day," he announced that it might be a good time to dance with
the one you love. I looked at Dan, Dan looked at me, but we dismissed
the idea. It is a testament to Cody's soulful presentation that I
actually considered it, though.
• Years ago, my good buddy Troy paid me the ultimate
compliment when he spotted me at a show. He clapped me on the shoulder
and said, "I know I'm at the right show when you're at it." The very
same could be said for the ubiquitous King Slice. His appearance at a
show is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Follow him and see
where he goes next. That's where the party will likely be the best.
• Also ran into Magnolia Mountain's Mark Utley, who's in the teeth of planning the next Music for the Mountains
benefit show. The second MFTM disc is chock full of traditional
goodness and the album and the concert will raise funds to help
eliminate the mining practice of mountaintop removal. As Mark noted,
"Nature gives women the ability to forget about the pain of childbirth
so they'll ready to do it again. That's how it was for me with this
concert." The pain is always worth it, man (says the guy who's not
feeling the pain) … good luck and God speed.
• And on my way out of Shuggie Otis, I chanced upon Jim
Blase, co-owner of Shake It Records and quite simply one of the finest
human beings I've had the pleasure to and good fortune to know.
• Lots of folks turned out for Mad Anthony's return,
including Kelly Thomas, who was an architect of two benefit shows to
help the boys get back on their feet (and who is actually collaborating
with the band on some new songs, which should be awesome). Also in
attendance was former MA bassist Dave Markey, and his ebullient mom, who
may have been the biggest fan in the room; I'm pretty sure she knew the
words to every song. It was a beautiful thing.
• Jim Blase was also hanging out at the Frontier Folk
Nebraska show, obviously showing support for Travis, who still puts in
some time behind the Shake It counter. I was about to head over to say
hello again but ran into old friend Danny Rupe, who I never get to see
anymore except at random and all to infrequent MidPoint shows. He put my
digits and e-mail add into his Jetsons phone, so maybe I'll hear from
him with a little more timeliness now.
• Slice, The Black Owls' Brandon Losacker, Dave Markey and
Ringo Jones were all hanging at the Leogun extravaganza. I was looking
for my Class X compatriot Eddy Mullet, who had designs on the show, but I
didn't see him so his plans must have changed. God, I hope it wasn't a
kidney stone; that's what derailed his Bunbury experience. After the
show, I had a quick chat with Tommy and Matt from the band as they were
packing up to go, and then Ringo and I closed the Mainstay, as he
regaled me with tales of Mad Anthony, and promises that their new
material is the best they've ever done. I know they'll prove it when the