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
by Leyla Shokoohe
Ahhhh, MidPoint! I look forward to it every year. September, for this lady, holds promise, romance, intrigue and MPMF. I started my MPMF.13 off right: grabbed a baller parking spot right after work in front of Coffee Emporium, grabbed a baller iced Americano and grabbed my (you thought I was going to say baller? How presumptuous) press pass. I think I did say out loud to myself: Let's GOOOO.The first band I wanted to see was my pal Molly Sullivan at 8:15 p.m. at Japp's Annex. I had some time to kill, so I hung out on the Midway. Sidewalk Chalk was still grooving; they've got a rocking brass section, shimmery drums and soulful singers. I previously saw them on Fountain Square last year as part of the Indie Summer Series, and really enjoyed everything they had to offer. Great fun way to kick off MPMF. I wandered around the Midway for a bit, checking out the numerous box trucks that comprise the Box Truck Carnival presented by ArtWorks. The Midway itself is pretty awesome, easily accessible and kind of reminds me of a corral for progressively more intoxicated adults. I don't mean that in a derogatory way; I, too, enjoy consuming beer freely in the open on 12th Street. The Box Trucks this year held a lot of potential — I wrote about the Midway for the MPMF Guide in CityBeat a few weeks back, so I was well-briefed on what to expect. Well, kind of.The first truck I checked out was the Glam Rock Box Truck. Anyone who knows me is aware of the siren call the word "karaoke" holds, so of course I went in.The premise was great (for karaoke nerds like me), but box trucks just don't do karaoke justice, honestly. There are a number of songs to pick from, but not as many karaoke staples as one might expect. And for being called the Glam Rock truck, I didn't really see any Glam Rock hits on the list. The ladies running the truck seemed to be having a good time, though, so I did my best version of "Semi-Charmed Life" and went off to continue leading mine. I wandered around the Midway some more, stopping in the Short Order Poetry Box Truck, which was 19 kinds of adorable. You step inside the truck, get paired with a stranger who asks you random questions (hi Adam!) and then they'll create a poem, on a typewriter no less, just for you, ready in just about 10 minutes. Mine had a lot of death and blood and dream imagery, just how I like 'em. I listened to a few minutes of stand-up in the comedy Box Truck before heading to Lucy Blue's. I notoriously put off eating until I'm ravenous, so I decided to carb-up on pizza in preparation for the long night ahead. I met up with friends at Japp's and we ordered drinks and chatted before wandering to the Annex to hear Molly Sullivan. Every time I see Molly perform, I'm more and more impressed. She's really fleshed her sound out (the addition of friends on the drums and bass is the perfect complement to her singer/guitarist combo), and lots of people are noticing — she recently won the Last Soloist Standing contest at FBs, grand prize being a large cash sum. Molly's a charming vocalist; her voice is flexible and searching, and she's always been good at melancholy intonation. I heard a fresh version of "So It Goes" from the No No Knots days, and some of her newer material had an almost Jewel-when-she-still-had-a-snaggle-tooth quality to it. I really, really dug it. So did a number of other people — quite a dedicated following was there. I'd say Molly Sullivan's first solo show at MPMF was a great success. I had been planning all week to see Kurt Vile at Grammer's, but there was about half an hour before he was supposed to go on and I ran into my pal Caitlin, who told me the mythical history of Shuggie Otis. I was intrigued, so I walked with her to Washington Park. I still don't know how I feel about the fact that they've moved the stage to the permanent pavilion instead of in front of Music Hall; there's such a grandiosity to playing in front of that gorgeous building that just isn't matched by the pavilion — and I know there are lots of sad Instagram accounts crying right now — but I understand the convenience. We'll see how I feel about it tonight. Anyway. Shuggie Otis. Skyrocketed to fame by age 21 and receded into the abyss of obscurity? And then he joins David Byrne's label and comes back? Tell me more. Shuggie had a groovy Soul/Funk sound brought to life by a huge backing band, complete with a stellar saxophonist. Glad I caught a few minutes, but I was on a Kurt Vile MISSION, so I started the trek to Liberty Street and Grammer's.Well, by way of my car. I grabbed a jacket and was headed north, but as I walked by Below Zero Lounge, I heard a voice too great not to stop. If Ryan Adams and Adam Levine and the bearded lead singer from Maps & Atlases had an Asian baby, it would be St. Lenox. He was just plain awesome. I wanted to hang out with him, I wanted him to sing an album of lullabies, I wanted to stay for his whole set, but I'll be damned if I wasn't going to see Kurt Vile.I didn't see Kurt Vile. Whoever guessed that two paragraphs ago knows that my ominous overtone was poorly done. I got stopped again walking by MOTR, this time by Fort Shame from Columbus, Ohio. I feel like so many times when a woman is a lead singer of a rock outfit, the instinct is to compare her to another female vocalist, but it has to be one who's personality is somehow perceived as similar, or stylistically akin (and I do mean clothes, not just shredding), so I'm not going to compare Fort Shame's Sue Harshe to anyone, because I don't think that's fair and, honestly, it's a little reductive. I'm just going to say that she does credit to anyone singing Rock. And the band had a star saxophonist, which was super fun. I did hear via Twitter that Kurt Vile sang the word "yeah" for like fifteen minutes at the beginning of his set, so I said it a bunch to myself as I walked back to the Midway to hear Ha Ha Tonka and didn't feel too bad about it.The first time I saw Ha Ha Tonka was two (or three? who knows) Midpoints ago at The Drinkery. These guys have all gotten hair cuts since then, but they sound even better. They sound like what folky Rock cut with a raucous night of varying emotions that ends with hanging out with friends and beer staring at the river would sound like. You know the kind of night I'm talking about. They're just the tops. Tight and talented musicality and great stage presence is only topped by their impeccable four-part harmony. Just magnetic. Second or third time's the charm, gentlemen. I finished my night seeing Bleached at the Know Theatre, which last year held all the buzz bands I wished I'd been able to get inside and see (something about being "at capacity"), and I wasn't disappointed. Punk Rock girls with a guy drummer. Ramones cover. Misfits cover. I thoroughly enjoyed my attempt at head-banging AND the fact that these girls didn't try too hard. I feel like a lot of Punk-esque bands nowadays are all like "I AM PUNK! LOOK, SEE, I AM!" but Bleached was more like, "Fuck Punk. We're just Bleached." Own it, dudes.And then I walked back to my car and went home and passed right the heck out. I'll see ya at MPMF for round two tonight.
by Mike Breen
Don't wanna walk the MPMF route? Bring a bike (or just rent one!)
With the addition of the Ballroom at the Taft Theatre and Mainstay Rock Bar, the footprint of this year's MidPoint Music Festival has expanded, stretching from East Liberty (where the Grammer's tent/Dewey's Pizza Stage is located) to Fifth Street, near Fountain Square. That's a hike, especially if you're trying to go from Over-the-Rhine to Downtown (or vice versa) to see another performer, and you need to do so a little more quickly than your legs will carry you. Soon, MidPoint will help showcase the currently-under-construction streetcar, which will be looping around the area and be a convenient way to speed from one stage to another. But for now, you're going to have to hoof it.Or bike it.You are encouraged to bring your own bike — thanks to a partnership between the City of Cincinnati and MidPoint, there will be tons of places to lock them up. Your bicycle can legally be locked up onto parking meters and sign poles throughout Over-the-Rhine and Downtown and, below, you can view a map that shows the 11 temporary bike "corrals" that have been added close to most MPMF venues this year. Those are in addition to the racks already available in the area. "We want to encourage festival goers to try going car-less this year. With all of the venues located in such a compact area in OTR and Downtown, this is a great opportunity to experience how easy it is to get around town on a bicycle," Michael Moore, Director of the Department of Transportation & Engineering, is quoted as saying in a press release. If your own ride is in the shop, you're coming in from out of town or you just don't want to worry about it, you can easily rent one at the fest. The Cincinnati Bike Center is offering discount bicycle rentals at a rental station set up at the MidPoint Midway, located on 12th Street, between Vine and Walnut streets. The rental bikes will be available at a flat rate of $15 for a four-hour rental.Here's a look at the map featuring the bicycle parking areas and MPMF venues. For your own PDF copy, click here.
Q&A with MidPoint booking master Dan McCabe
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
With Cincinnati, when looking at the past
five to 10 years of growth, it’s hard not to give a lot of credit to the
artists and musicians who’ve consistently created intriguing art for
the citizens, as well as the fans and leaders who support and assist
Plus, news on some of the many "unofficial" MPMF activities going down this week
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
It's MidPoint Music Festival week in Cincinnati! News on some of the festival's late-breaking additions, as well as a couple of the many "unofficial" MPMF events.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club re-emerges from some difficult, dark times with 'Specter at the Feast'
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
On Specter of the Feast, MidPoint Music Festival headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club showcases both the band’s buzzing Rock & Roll side and its more atmospheric approach.
by Mike Breen
Indie Orchestral Folk troupe from Athens to showcase twice during next week's MPMF
Athens, Ohio's Orchestral Folk Rock ensemble The Ridges has become a Cincinnati favorite thanks to frequent visits, including during several past MidPoint Music Festivals. The band is returning to MPMF this year for a pair of showcases. Since last year's MPMF appearance, the group has toured extensively (hitting the South, Midwest and East Coast hard), played seven (!) showcases at Austin, Texas' South By Southwest and, most recently, opened for Indie stars Ra Ra Riot. The Ridges will play MidPoint again this year, on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Mr. Pitiful's on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The band made a promotional video for its official MPMF showcase, featuring a clip of an unreleased song called "Shadows." In addition to the official showcase, The Ridges have curated the musical lineup for FotoFocus Presents: The MidPoint Sessions, an afternoon "day party" to celebrate the concert photography exhibit Reverberation: Capturing the Live Music Experience at the Art Academy of Cincinnati's Childlaw Gallery (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, just off the MidPoint Midway). Though not officially affiliated with MidPoint, the showcase and exhibit are great examples of some of the cool auxiliary events that are scheduled around official MPMF events. The exhibit will be open longer during MidPoint; fans can check out the show until 9 p.m. on Sept. 26 and 10 p.m. on
Sept. 27-28. The exhibit
closes Sept. 29.For The MidPoint Sessions, The Ridges have invited some of their fellow Ohio musician pals (and fellow MPMF 2013 showcasers) to join in on Saturday, Sept. 28's event at the Art Academy. Cincinnati's The Happy Maladies and Molly Sullivan, as well as Columbus, Ohio's great Indigo Wild are also slated to play. The performances are being filmed by The Queen City Project; look for video of the artists' Sessions after MidPoint.
Plus, King Records Month continues and more
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Bluegrass for Babies, featuring local artists Wild Carrot and Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, returns to Sawyer Point Saturday to raise money for the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Plus, King Records Month continues, CityBeat hosts a pre-MidPoint Music Festival party, Jerry's Little Band turns 20 and Abiyah Presents Hip Hop @
The Comet presents a special "open mic" edition.