by Mike Breen
Wildly acclaimed rockers join Tigerlilies, Honey & Houston and School of Rock Mason for free MidPoint Indie Summer show on Fountain Square
Since being released nationally in early May, Cincinnati rockers Wussy’s amazing latest album Attica! has been scoring an insane amount of neon-glowing reviews from many high profile outlets. Pitchfork, Pop Matters and Spin, among many others, have all given the album high praise (Spin also recently named it one of the Top 50 album releases of the year so far, alongside long-players by Beck, Pharrell and The Afghan Whigs). The band’s new record was also the inspiration for a remarkable essay by Charles Taylor for The Los Angeles Review of Books.Give a listen to the new album below, then hit “buy” to grab your own copy:
<a href="http://wussy.bandcamp.com/album/attica">Attica! by Wussy</a>
Wussy is playing its only local show until at least this fall tonight, as the group keeps busy on the road throughout the summer, crisscrossing the country in support of Attica! The band’s upward trajectory that has been kickstarted by the new album shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.Check out CityBeat's recent interview with Wussy here.
Wussy joins The Tigerlilies, Honey & Houston and students from the School of Rock Mason (check the clips below for samples of each) for a free show tonight on Fountain Square as part of the MidPoint Indie Summer series (grab your MidPoint Music Festival passes in person at the MPMF booth or sign up for a chance to win some). The show starts at 7 p.m.
by Mike Breen
Northside record haven presents a string of in-store performances in honor of its 15th anniversary
In March of 1999, after running the Cincinnati-based Shake It Records label for several years, brothers Jim and Darren Blase opened a new record store in the Northside neighborhood. The store, also called Shake It Records, was an instant hit with local record-buyers, offering a huge chunk of vinyl alongside their CD stock, as well as books, magazines and various musical merchandise (among many other items).
Since then, word of Shake It’s awesomeness has spread far and wide — the well-stocked and unique shop has often earned nods in the national press as one of the best record stores in the country, and music heads from across the region always make trips to Shake It when in Cincinnati (or they make trips just to go Shake It). Indie Rock star/hardcore record lover Bob Pollard, for example, comes down from Dayton often and frequently leaves with a big stack of LPs for his (surely gargantuan) collection.
The beloved shop has also regularly featured in-store performances from both local artists and national touring acts (a Tegan and Sara in-store a few years ago drew the attention of local TV news stations because of the huge turnout to meet the Pop duo). To celebrate its 15th anniversary — a remarkable milestone considering Shake It’s rise coincided with the rise of digital music and the alleged death march of brick-and-mortar record stores — Shake it will be presenting a string of performances throughout March.
The free, intimate shows kick off tomorrow (Saturday, March 1) with a 7 p.m. performance from Cincinnati Pop/Rock guitar/songwriting legend Rob Fetters. Fetters, who kicked off the 2014 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in January with a surprise performance, will be supporting his latest solo release, Saint Ain’t, and you’re bound to hear a few songs from his expansive songwriting legacy with the bands The Raisins, psychodots and The Bears.
Shake It recently released the schedule of in-store performances for the rest of the month, with more to be added. Not that an excuse is needed for a Shake It visit, but the following events are great chances to stop in and wish the store a happy birthday.
March 15: Cincy Honky Tonk ensemble Jeremy Pinnell & The 55's (7 p.m.)
March 19: Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, supporting his third solo release, Rock ’n’ Roll Blues, which comes out March 18. (time TBA)
March 21: Northern Kentucky singer/songwriter Daniel Martin Moore, who’s released acclaimed material through the Sub Pop label, and “Friends.” (8 p.m.)
March 22: The Shake It label’s biggest success story, Cincy rockers Wussy, who will preview their new album, Attica, which releases nationally on May 6. (7 p.m.)
March 29: Covington Indie Rock crew Frontier Folk Nebraska, whose releases are distributed through the Shake It label. (7 p.m.)
Keep an eye on shakeitrecords.com — and sign up for Shake It’s e-mailing list — for the latest in-store additions and more.
by Mike Breen
• With a Country music base, Rock edge, R&B-inspired three-part harmonies and catchy but emotionally weighty songs, Brooklyn’s The Lone Bellow emerged in 2013 as one of the next potential Americana breakthrough artists. The trio’s well received, self-titled debut — featuring songs written by frontman Zach Williams to help him deal with a tragic horse-riding accident that left his new wife temporarily paralyzed — was released last January on Sony imprint, Descendant Records, to high praise from many high-profile press outlets. (Read more about the group from CityBeat’s preview here.)
The Lone Bellow performs tonight at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17 at the door. Here’s a one-shot video of the trio performing its song “Tree to Grow” in the hills surrounding Los Angeles for the online “SerialBox Singles” series:
• In the two years since Cincinnati Indie Rock band The Sweep released its third album, III, the group has been busy regrouping with a new lineup and writing and recording material for a new album. Sweep singer/songwriter/guitarist Nic Powers and longtime bassist Glen May are now joined in the band by guitarist Brendan Bogosian, who currently also plays guitar with veteran local crew The Tigerlilies, and drummer Joe Klug, who also keeps time for widely-acclaimed Cincy band Wussy. The Sweep continues its free, every-Tuesday-of-November residency tonight at The Comet in Northside at 9 p.m. The band is being joined by various special guests during the residency — last week’s opener featured the reignited Pillbug (from the forces behind The Fairmount Girls), while this week Halvsies joins The Sweep. For the Nov. 19 show, Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver will also perform and the Nov. 26 residency finale will feature a set from Fists of Love. Click here to sample/purchase The Sweep’s great III album.For more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight, click here.
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.