Toronto, Canada • Electro Rock
Toronto’s latest primo export (after Joey Votto, of course) pimps instrumental soundscapes that range from ambient murmurs to beat-heavy freak-outs, sometimes within the same song. The quartet’s freshly minted album for XL, Latin, is a smorgasbord of dynamics best exemplified by the segue from the dance-floor-ready Funk of “Red Lights” to “Latin America,” a shimmering blast of space-age atmospherics. And don’t think these guys are just a bunch of detached knob-turners — Holy Fuck’s sweaty, hypnotic live shows are anchored by a turbo-charged rhythm section that gives the band’s dense electronic excursions an uncommonly sturdy base.
Dig it: A caffeine-laced Mogwai on a Brian Eno kick, the soundtrack to an experimental sci-fi flick. (JG)
11:30 p.m. Thursday at The Cincinnati Club
Ha Ha Tonka
Springfield, MO • Indie Roots Rock
Once upon a time there was a band called Amsterband. They tore shit up pretty well in a beer-buzzy Americana kind of way, and finally they put out a great record called Buckle in the Bible Belt. When it was picked up by Bloodshot, they decided to change the band’s name to Ha Ha Tonka, which is the name of a state park in their native Missouri (and in no way is meant to imply that children laugh at their toy trucks, because Tonka makes a fine product). Many people loved Buckle in the Bible Belt (I even like just saying it), some even called it the best record of 2007 and compared HHT to The Hold Steady. Last year, they released Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South, which might be even better. And they Roots Rocked happily ever after. (Not) The End.
Dig it: The Replacements reunite and record in Levon Helm’s barn while Drive-By Truckers throw palm fronds on the floor. (BB)
Midnight Saturday at Jack Potts Tavern
The Happy Maladies
Cincinnati • Americana/Roots
The Happy Maladies have achieved an impressive evolution in the compressed space of their two-year existence. The Maladies’ acoustic Folk direction fits comfortably under the Americana umbrella. But the band has picked up quirky hitchhikers along the way, including Bluegrass, Gypsy Jazz and Classical strains (they’re CCM grads, after all) and then layered it with a noisy experimentalism and called it their own. The Happy Maladies’ debut full-length, Sun Shines the Little Children, rides the emotional tension between traditional and revolutionary, between arty and crafty, between musical control and clattering chaos. Take a swig of that homebrew and enjoy the colors.
Dig it: Gillian Welch, The New Pornographers, Jim Mathus and Andrew Bird on the Island of Misfit Chamber Folk Toys. (BB)
8:15 p.m. Friday at Media Bridges
Cincinnati • Indie Rock
These aptly monikered locals tap into a wealth of Rock history, veering from ’60s Pysch Rock one minute to noisy Post Punk the next. One can barely make out the words spilling from frontman Michael Oliva’s mouth; they might not be immediately accessible anyway: “I don’t like bands that sing about real shit that’s so straightforward it’s boring,” he once told a CityBeat interviewer. The band’s 2009 self-released debut, Baron Von Headless, is rife with spirited lo-fi anthems, all of which are taken to another level in a live setting.
Dig It: Early Sebadoh, ’60s Psych Rock, The Sundresses. (JG)
9:30 p.m. Friday at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club
Cincinnati • Indie/Folk
Christman Hersha and some pals from Athens, Ohio, formed the progressive Indie Pop crew The Story Of and moved to Austin, Texas, where the band was embraced locally, toured a lot and gradually gained attention from popular Indie music blogs and even NPR. When the band called it quits, Hersha came back to Ohio and met singer/guitarist Chris Sutton, forming The Heartlanders (with Pete Moore on drums). While using traditional Americana/Folk instrumentation, big-sky vocals and melodies give The Heartlanders a gauzy, unique sound that has already helped the band earn critical praise for its first effort, the 7-inch vinyl EP, Cattywompus.
Dig It: The Jayhawks learning new tricks from The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. (MB)
8 p.m. Thursday at Washington Platform
Melbourne, Australia • Country/Rock
Wagons’ frontman Henry Wagons might not be as famous worldwide as fellow Australian Keith Urban, but they’re wildly successful Down Under and, given this is the first time he’s come to the States, maybe they will be rockin’ the Billboard Country charts in the near future. But, unlike Urban’s mundane commercial Country Pop, Wagons’ take on Country is based on the early classics and drenched in humor. But the music’s no joke — it’s well written, imaginative, often cinematic and critically-acclaimed for its authenticity.
Dig It: Nick Cave and Tom Waits make a Johnny Cash tribute album and have Adam Green rewrite all of the songs. (MB)
11 p.m. Friday at Artworks
Cincinnati • Roots/Americana
Hickory Robot is one of the fastest rising Roots bands in the local scene, with its just-released debut album, Firefly, earning universally positive reviews, focusing particular attention on fiddler Lauren Schloemer, whose vocal prowess has been favorably yard-sticked against Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss. But Hickory Robot’s phenomenal sound is centered around the three part harmonies of Schloemer, mandolinist Scott Carnder and guitarist Jim Pelz, anchored by bassist Matt Holt and propelled to the stratosphere by great songwriting that is both traditionally influenced and contemporarily slanted. Long may the Robot run.
Dig it: The old time train pulling into Union Station after stops at Dylan Street, Van Zandt Way and the Hartford Interchange. (BB)
9:30 p.m. Thursday at Madonna's
Cincinnati • Indie Americana
Fronted by longtime Cincinnati guitar ace Billy Alletzhauser, The Hiders’ two self-released records — 2006 Valentine and 2008’s Penny Harvest Field — transport listeners to a place where honest emotion and well-crafted songs take precedent over throwaway trends and ironic posturing. There’s a timeless quality to Alletzhauser’s twangy ditties, most of which revel in elemental things like relationships gone bad and hummingbirds floating through Southern skies. As its moniker might suggest, The Hiders are an elusive, ever-shifting bunch (Alletzhauser and Beth Harris are the lone constants). Its considerable reputation (NPR’s World Cafe is a big fan) should only grow with the news that the band plans to release a new album, titled Four Letter Town, this fall.
Dig It: Neil Young, Elliott Smith on an Americana kick, Uncle Tupelo. (JG)
10 p.m. Thursday at Artworks
Berlin, Germany • Indie Rock
If you’ve been a Northside resident for a while, you no doubt remember the affable Austin Brown, whose adventures in Cincinnati music culminated with the popular band The Staggering Statistics, bassist John Curley’s first steady group since the demise of The Afghan Whigs. Brown left Cincinnati for Germany, but he continued his musical journey in the form of High Heels and the debut album Pink Noise, crafted with the assistance of two other sometime Cincinnatians, Josiah Wolf of Why? and ex-Throneberry/Afghan Whigs drummer Michael Horrigan.
Dig It: The Staggering Statistics, Pavement, The Dandy Warhols minus the pomp and attitude. (MB)
10:30 p.m. Friday at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club
Chicago • Indie Rock
Hollus had a busy 2009, releasing the Blues/Rock-influenced Joker And The Queen and touring steadily in support of it. The band also plotted out a slightly different direction for its next phase, as the newer tracks “Lucy Grey” and “Songs That You Love” suggest a Psych/Roots Pop direction in the foursome’s future.
Dig it: Beachwood Sparks, Gram Parsons, tripping at sunset in Joshua Tree. (MB)
10:15 p.m. Saturday at Inner Peace Center
Cincinnati/Los Angeles, CA • Alt/Pop/Americana
Honneycombs is a cross-country collaboration featuring local singer/songwriter April Combs, her L.A.-based brother, guitarist/singer/songwriter James Combs, and locally based harmony singer Laurie Burnham. The trio’s quirky, ethereal Pop twists traditional American music forms and has an offbeat art-film quality so it was no surprise when producer/composer Michael Andrews (who soundtracked Donnie Darko) signed them on to his label.
Dig It: Stunning vocal harmonies, subtle sunshine psychedelia, cinematic music that skirts the line between eerily spooky and gorgeously seductive.
9:30 p.m. Friday at Mr. Pitiful's
Louisville, KY • Psychedelic Indie Rock
IamIs is the duo of keyboardist Shawna Dellecave and drummer Jason Cox, who have been perpetrating their psychedelically twisted Folk Rock on an unsuspecting public for the past six years. Pop melodicism, noisy dissonance, visceral Rock volume, Folk reflection, touches of Jazz and Blues and an Indie Rock energy are all woven into the acid-washed fabric of IamIs, which can resemble a Modern Rock show or the soundtrack to a performance art piece in an improvised moment. IamIs is it.
Dig it: Royal Trux, Feist, Beck, Portishead, Elf Power and Olivia Tremor Control perform The Beatles songbook in a community orchestra conducted by Wayne Coyne. (BB)
9:30 p.m. Friday at Segway of Cincinnati
The Icy Shores
Minneapolis, MN • Indie Rock
Inspired by “the loud side of Indie” (Afghan Whigs, Drive Like Jehu and Nirvana), this trio recorded its sophomore album, The Opposite of Your Heart, with production/mixing help from Bryan Hanna (Golden Smog, The Hang-Ups) and J. Robbins (Promise Ring, Jawbox). Don’t let that “loud side” comment fool you — The Icy Shores’ songs are often heavy, but they’re also smartly crafted and passionately delivered.
Dig It: The Foo Fighters if Nirvana never happened. (MB)
11:15 p.m. Friday at Inner Peace Center
Houston, TX • Noise/Experimental
This free-floating Houston collective has a song called “Good Vibrations,” and it sounds absolutely nothing like The Beach Boys. Instead, it hovers around the borders of sound, trapping in snatches of voice, mystical, minimalist fuzz, plodding percussion and a sense of what it must feel like to be hover above your body and watch it be operated on while you’re unconscious. It’s a small, ominous indicator of Indian Jewelry’s ambitions for the weird and hypnotic.
Dig it: The aesthetic crystallized in a comment by a YouTube user who caught an Indian Jewelry set in L.A.: “I saw these guys crash their van at the Echoplex as they were leaving. I was expecting feedback or something.” (RA)
9:30 p.m. Thursday at The Cincinnati Club
J. Dorsey Blues Revival
Cincinnati • Blues
While some fear the Blues has lost some of its influence and fire as time marches on, every generation has a handful of young artists who pull the Blues jalopy into the garage, give it a paint job, supercharge the engine and get it back on the street so the kids can “ooh” and “ahh” and ask, “Where did that come from?” J. Dorsey Blues Revival has been doing that in Cincinnati for the past few years with a powerhouse live show and a style that encompasses a wide array of Blues variations. And when Dorsey and Co. play, it’s clear they didn’t just discover Blues by stumbling upon a Black Keys album a few months ago — they have a masterful grasp, not only chops-wise, but in the way they understand and reflect Blues’ original spirit and soul.
Dig It: The ability to take all of the Blues tree’s branches and build something awe-inspiring out of the wood. (MB)
10 p.m. Friday at Jack Potts Tavern
Louisville, KY • Indie/Folk/Country
Glenn was the original drummer for My Morning Jacket, but left the group two years in and began to work on his own songs. Based in Folk and Country, Glenn’s music is blissfully eccentric and quite compelling, with his unique high-pitched vocals and slanted melodies driving the bus. Glenn likens himself to outside-the-lines cult hero Hasil Adkins and, like Adkins, he follows his own muse, one that only he can see and one that may quite possibly just be a hallucination.
Dig It: Captain Beefheart’s long lost Country album featuring John Prine in his helium junkie days. (MB)
10 p.m. Friday at MOTR Pub
Jake Speed & the Freddies
Cincinnati • Folk/Americana
If there was a mayor of Cincinnati’s Folk scene, it would be Jake Speed, a young Folk/Americana singer/songwriter with old-timey charm and such an authoritative grasp on traditional American Folk music, he should probably be given an honorary Master’s Degree in Roots music. Speed and his band The Freddies have won multiple Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and each year Speed organizes the Rivertown Breakdown concert, showcasing the best of Cincinnati’s strong Roots scene.
Dig It: Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Pete Seeger. (MB)
11:30 p.m. Friday at Madonna's
Nashville • Pop/Folk
Texas born and now based in Nashville, singer/songwriter Jarrod Dickenson crafts a soulful, Folk-tinged brand of Pop that has the power to connect to broken-hearted lovers everywhere. His heartfelt debut album, Ashes On The Ground, came out in 2009 and he’s been road-dogging it in support of the album consistently.
Dig it: Gavin McGraw, David Gray, James Blunt. (MB)
9:30 p.m. Saturday at Madonna's
Indianapolis, IN • Indie Country/Folk Rock
It’s no small thing that Jascha lists its first three major influences as Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, authors who dealt with reality and absurdity in equal measure. Like Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes before them, Indy’s Jascha brings a ferocious Indie Rock attitude to the concept of Country and Folk, resulting in a sound that is traditionally reflective and contemporarily vibrant.
Dig it: The Gin Blossoms if they’d been raised in the Dust Bowl with a love of Woody Guthrie and snuck listens to Elliott Smith. (BB)
11 p.m. Thursday at Below Zero Lounge
Jason and the Scorchers
Nashville • Country Punk/Roots Rock
There’s a long list of artists over the past several decades who deserve some credit for spawning the AltCountry movement, but if you don’t have Jason and the Scorchers on there pretty high, you aren’t paying close enough attention. The band exploded onto the College Rock scene in 1981 with a fiery Hard Rock/Punk-influenced brand of trad Country and became a popular regional draw (even letting some little band called R.E.M. open for them at one time). A deal with EMI, college radio airplay and even some love from MTV led to wider exposure and bigger audiences across the country. As the Scorchers veered more to the Hard Rock side of things, interest dwindled and the band split. They reunited for a few years during the ’90s when their profile rose thanks to the AltCountry explosion, but splintered again, with singer Jason Ringenberg the only member to continue making music. Bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Americana Music Conference in 2008, the band reconvened with a new rhythm section and are currently touring its first album since 1996, Halcyon Times..
Dig it: Rowdy Roots Rock, blistering Cowpunk, Country music on steroids. (MB)
9 p.m. Saturday at Southgate House
Jessica Lea Mayfield
Kent, OH • Indie Pop
Jessica Lea Mayfield has a back-story that Hollywood couldn’t have conceived. Playing in the family Bluegrass band at 8, writing songs at 11, open mics and solo gigs at 13, debut EP at 15. Enter the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who hears about Mayfield through his dad and invites Mayfield to record and hang at his Akron studio. As a result, Mayfield sings on the Keys’ Attack and Release album, records her official debut album, 2008’s With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, winds up opening for the Keys and Avett Brothers and makes people crazy with her blend of Bluegrass and the Blues. And all of this before her 21st birthday, which was last month. Considering her résumé so far, Mayfield’s encore should be pretty astounding.
Dig it: Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch backpack through Appalachia singing for supper. (BB)
10 p.m. Thursday at Know Theatre
Jessie Torrisi & The Please, Please Me
Austin, TX • Americana Pop
There is nothing typical about Jessie Torrisi. The native Philadelphian and former New Yorker did drum duties for a succession of groups before realizing that her destiny was to front her own band. After several moves, she wound up in Austin where she assembled the Please, Please Me and started making music that roils, rumbles and wriggles with the passion and power of Bonnie Raitt, Marcia Ball, Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams at their very best. Make sure everything is screwed down tight — Torrisi, her personalized panties, kazoo army and inspired Roots outfit are coming to town, and they don’t care if you’ve been bad or good.
Dig it: James McMurtry’s sister rocks out with Ryan Adams’ brothers and makes a mother of a racket. (BB)
11:15 p.m. Saturday at Arnold's Bar & Grill
Columbus, OH • Indie/Folk
This born-and-bred Buckeye counts among his influences Robert Plant, Andrew Bird, The Temptations, The Beatles and his grandpa, most of which is not immediately evident in his eccentric, energetic minimalism, which often has an almost avant-garde vaudevillian feel.
Dig it: Antony and the Johnsons, Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens. (MB)
9:15 p.m. Saturday at Media Bridges
Vancouver, Canada • Roots/Bluegrass
Time for another quiz (don’t you just love quizzes?). Johnnie Ninety-Nine is: A) a Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen song; B) a lethal concoction consisting of wine and a sneaky shot of gin; or C) a Canadian singer/songwriter with three distinct bands. That’s right, it’s all three. With The Hornets, Johnnie just released her laconic Rootsgrass album, No Home Like Nowhere; she had previously recorded with The Buckin’ Ladybugs and The Buskin’ & Robbin’ Band. Johnnie kicks her Bluegrass up a notch by creating sonic textures and atmospheres, resulting in songs that are felt as much as heard.
Dig it: Michelle Shocked rewriting the American Country Songbook with Daniel Lanois producing the session. (BB)
10:30 p.m. Saturday at Madonna's
Xenia, OH • Folk Pop
Why?’s afro-sporting multi-instrumentalist Josiah Wolf strikes out on his own with Jet Lag, a 12-song set of slanted Folk Pop released by Anticon in March. The brief, wistful “Master Cleanse (California)” floats along via acoustic guitar, Wolf’s whispery sing/speak vocals and a chorus that comments on his onetime place of residence: “California what have you done to me/I’m waiting for the big one/Then we can laugh about history.” There’s a childlike spirit to Wolf’s introspective ditties (copious use of xylophone can have that effect), which are no doubt informed by the fact that our narrator has “done his share of dreaming; in fact that’s all I do.” Wolf played all the instruments on Jet Lag, which is something we don’t expect at his MPMF show — though we don’t deny he could do it.
Dig it: Beck’s folkier excursions, Why?, Daniel Johnston. (JG)
10:30 p.m. Saturday at Know Theatre
Justin Townes Earle
Nashville, TN • Folk/AltCountry
If you play any shade of Americana, it’s no secret that the characters and geography of the South make for great places to inspire stories and sounds. As the offspring of Country/Americana artist Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle skillfully populates his tightly-wound Folk with many a Southern reference. After leaving a lousy girlfriend, he brags about being “halfway to Jackson,” searches south Georgia for a “sugar babe” and pays tribute to West Virginian folk character John Henry. The authenticity is within the grit.
Dig it: A.A. Bondy, Woody Guthrie and any number of troubadours throughout history who’ve championed the uncomplicated pleasures of voice and strings. (Reyan Ali)
11 p.m. Thursday at Know Theatre
Columbus, OH • Indie Rock
Karate Coyote clearly doesn’t have any interest in being painted in any particular genre corner, and to that end, the Columbus sextet can combine boisterous Indie Pop simplicity with precise Math Rock complexity and Soul Pop effervescence. Karate Coyote’s brilliance lies in the fact that they’re never simply one of these sounds but a multi-hued amalgamation of all of them. And you can dance to it, Dick. Give ’em a 95.
Dig it: Los Campesinos! and the B-52s shimmy on the tables at Danceteria. (BB)
10:30 p.m. Thursday at Mainstay Rock Bar
Cincinnati • Indie/Acoustic
Kelly Fine started out in that hotbed of Alternative musical endeavor, Dayton, Ohio, but has chosen to migrate south to the Queen City and we couldn’t be happier to have her here. Off-kilter Folk Pop with heart and soul and brains should have its own wing in a more musically inclusive Hall of Fame, and Kelly Fine should be its curator.
Dig it: Ingrid Michaelson gets her Masters in quirky Folk from Professor Ani Di Franco and Dr. Kate Bush, with a grant from the Wainwright Foundation. (BB)
8 p.m. Thursday at FB's
Ketch Harbour Wolves
Toronto, Canada • Baroque Folk Rock
Ketch Harbour Wolves made its U.S. debut at last year’s MidPoint and hopefully the word spread regarding the gifts of this amazing Ontario quintet. With the dark melodicism and ethereal Pop angst of Lloyd Cole and The National, KHW captivated audiences at home with its debut EP, 2008’s Dead Calm Horizon, and its just-released full length, Anachronisms, turns up the energy, intensifies the quiet and delivers another set of moody brilliance.
Dig it: Bruce Cockburn fronts The National and learns a Warren Zevon song for David Byrne’s surprise birthday party. (BB)
11:30 p.m. Friday at Main Event
Flint, MI • Indie Rock
Based on Kinetic Stereokids avowed influences, they would seem to be all over a map that is virtually unable to be navigated. Can, Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Stooges, Amon Duul, Simon & Garfunkel, Tribe Called Quest, Beatles … really? And that’s barely scratching the surface. And somehow the Stereokids hit the ball and touch ’em all, with a played-and-sampled soundtrack that points its prayer rug in the direction of Classic Rock and Pop and contemporary Hip Hop sonic provocateurs. From the lean Folkadelic stomp of 2007’s Basement Kids to the sophisticated kick of 2008’s Kid Moves, Kinetic Stereokids display their influences organically, not like animals in a zoo but in the living environment they were meant to inhabit.
Dig it: Beck, eels and Beastie Boys if they’d been raised in the grindingly recessionary Rust Belt. (BB)
Midnight Saturday at FB's
Cincinnati • Indie Rock
Koala Fires exploded on the local scene in 2008, earning a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nod for New Artist of the Year. The band spent the subsequent two years living up to the nomination. Since then, Koala Fires have been pathologically busy, opening for the likes of Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Bad Veins and the Pomegranates, recording their debut album, The Beeping In Our Hearts, breaking in a new rhythm section and playing with infectious abandon and hooks big enough to land a marlin.
Dig it: Pavement and Weezer, and Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. in a sack race at the Punk company picnic. (BB)
9:30 p.m. Saturday at Mixx Ultra Lounge
Detroit • Punk/Pop
In the finest genre blending tradition of the Motor City, Konniption Fit roars out of Detroit exuding a penchant for crowd-pleasing power Punk/Pop with a distinct edge. Guitarist/vocalist Jason Caine can channel radio-friendly Modern Rock riffs and shred like Joe Satriani, while bassist/vocalist Amber Cat and drummer Barbie Grrl lay down a bottom that’s lingerie-slinky and bedrock-solid. Pogo till you drop.
Dig it: Simple Plan meets Jimmy Eat World by the Renaissance Center for a Punk/Pop-off. (BB)
9 p.m. Saturday at FB's
Kopecky Family Band
Nashville, TN • Indie Rock
If you’re worried that we’ve booked some weird Partridge clan on a hippie bus, calm yourselves. The Kopecky Family Band isn’t a group of literal blood relatives, but a band whose members have forged a deep bond from years of touring, writing, recording, playing and battling over it all. You know, like every band. The Kopeckys swing like Poi Dog Pondering with a more pronounced Baroque Pop feel and the sense that they could go all Arcade Fire on your ass at the drop of a hipster hat. The Kopeckys love each other, they love music and they love you. And chicken wings.
Dig it: Bobby Bare Jr. and Susan Cowsill front The Polyphonic Spree. (BB)
9 p.m. Saturday at MOTR Pub
Cincinnati • Electronica/Post Punk
Even if you are a hipster wearing skinny jeans, Kry Kids threaten to make you move. An action-packed, engaging quartet, they’re semi-creepy and definitely bold, with that Punk, fuck-you-we’re-doing-what-we-like-and-we’re-good-too feel. Coming from the Electro homeland and adding intense drums with a blend of four local talents who spent time in Chalk, Culture Queer, Cash Flagg and Sistern, they say it best — they’re a “sonic, Dance-Punk machine.”
Dig it: Combat boots with skirts, C-3PO, Mike Doughty, David Bowie, Pac Man engaged in a drum war. (CAM)
10:30 p.m. Thursday at Main Event
The Kyle Sowashes
Columbus, OH • Indie Rock/Pop-Punk
Signs that you’re at a good Kyle Sowashes show: 1) The namesake/guitarist and vocalist is moving so vigorously that his drooping glasses are about to fall off; 2) He sings a heartfelt track with lyrics about spilling beer and Mountain Dew over himself at Pizza Hut after he already wasn’t feeling well; 3) Four performers tossing out rich, irresistible hooks; and 4) It’s a Kyle Sowashes show.
Dig it: Self-aware nerdiness and mid-’90s American Indie Rock. For kicks, let’s call the Sowashes Dinosaur Jr Jr. (RA)
9:15 p.m. Thursday at Inner Peace Center