Under the Streetlamp is a new act storming the nation that presents audiences with a vocal performance spotlighting what they call the "American Radio Songbook." The ensemble took its classic approach and turned it into a full production that has been drawing packed houses all over. Under the Streetlamp is currently barnstorming across the country on the heels of its PBS special and debut self-titled album, which showcases UtS's strong Doo-Wop/Pop/Motown/Rock & Roll-oldies sound.
CityBeat recently spoke with one of the vocalists, Michael Ingersoll, of Jersey Boys fame, and discussed the rise and evolution of the group as well as where the sights are set for the future. Under the Streetlamp performs at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center on Sunday night.
CityBeat: You guys have been around for a couple years but you are a fairly new group. Can you tell me the story of how Under the Streetlamp formed?
Michael Ingersoll: Absolutely. The four of us met when we were doing a play called Jersey Boys. Chris Jones and I did the first national tour of Jersey Boys and then he went off on his way and I met the other two fellows in Chicago and we did the production there. While we were in Jersey Boys, on our nights off we were putting together these concerts for clubs and local theaters to sing other music besides musicals, like things from The Beach Boys, The Drifters, The Beatles and songs like that.
After the show closed in Chicago, the momentum for us was actually following this band; this "side-gig" took off so we decided to pursue it rather than pursuing our individual career as actors. So we took advantage of that momentum and submitted a five-minute demo of what we were doing to (PBS outlet) WTTW in Chicago and they said they were interested in helping us develop this project.
That is the really short version. Once PBS was on board, we were able to book a 27-city tour, which is pretty ambitious for a new group.
CB: What is the biggest difference between performing in Jersey Boys on stage and the Under the Streetlamp group?
MI: Well, Jersey Boys, first and foremost, is a musical with a story and a book. We are a band; we are a concert. There is nothing Broadway about us at all. We have full artistic control over everything we do. This is a project that we guide. This is a project that we own.
That was really one of the big motivations for doing this because our acting careers where we were doing pretty well in the acting business.
It is a concert and we have a lot of fun with each other. We have a lot of the fun with the audience. We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves very seriously at all and the audience seems to enjoy that.
CB: I have been listening to the album this weekend. How did you pick these particular songs to perform or put on the album?
MI: The four of us — each of us is a lead singer. It is actually pretty rare for a band to have four lead singers. We wanted to lead with our strengths, our individual personality.
Michael Cunio, for example, has a crazy high singing voice so he did Etta James “At Last” in Etta’s original key and it is always a big surprise to the audience when it is coming. Chris (Jones) has got a very powerful, kind of balladeer voice so we sing “I Come For You” for him. I am kind of a Folk Rock/Rockabilly guy. Shonn (Wiley) is an incredible tap dancer and Broadway showman so we do “When You’re Smiling” for him.
So basically we just chose the songs as it suited our strengths and flowed for the evening. We also chose artists that are in that same genre that we learned when we were in Jersey Boys. So that’s where we get The Beach Boys and The Drifters and The Beatles.
Our music is fun, it is life-affirming, it is joyful, it makes people feel good. That is probably the biggest criteria for how we choose.
CB: I know your family was an influence musically to you growing up. I also know that you are from Dayton, so you are a local to us. Did you have a good music program in Dayton growing up or did your family give you private lessons? How did you develop musically?
MI: Well, there are two major factors. My grandfather was a professional Jazz pianist and so there was always music around in that environment. He taught me to play piano by ear and really get into Jazz primarily.
There is also an amazing arts program called Muse Machine in Dayton, Ohio. It is a program where kids come from all over — high schools from probably a 30-, 40-, 50-mile radius and every year they put on a musical and they bring in Broadway caliber directors and choreographers and producers. I was lucky enough to be cast into one of those shows and that is really where my interest exploded in performing and what led me to go to college and study acting.
Check out the Muse Machine website, you can learn all about it, it is an amazing organization. I would credit them with the biggest influence, the biggest push.
CB: You are on the road now. You said you were doing 27 cities, which is a lot to take on. Is there anything about home or here you miss when you are on the road?
MI: Obviously my family is there, but who doesn’t miss Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili and the Cincinnati Reds. I love those things. Those are the things I do as soon as I come back. I usually go to Skyline Chili and Graeter’s and try to catch a Reds game. I am a huge Reds fan and Bengals fan. I live in Los Angeles now so I miss the change of seasons in Ohio, but (there are) good, friendly folks there and it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Cincinnati has a vibrant and rich arts community so we just can’t wait to play. I also did a year at the Cincinnati Shakespeare (Company). That was my first actual professional acting job to work there for a year, so I got my start in Cincinnati.
CB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MI: I think that we are on track to be a top tier act in the Adult Contemporary market, with Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Diana Krall and artists like that. I think we have a product that makes people happy. I think we have a got a very powerful team with PBS and our management. We are determined to take this to as many people as will possibly let us do it. We are doing every single thing we can to make sure we are here to stay. As long as we make people happy, we are optimistic that will happen in big ways.
CB: You said you play piano, but do you guys play any instruments during the show or is it just singing?
MI: No, we are four singers and we have a seven-piece band of incredible world-class musicians. These are folks that have played with Sinatra and Frankie Valli and huge, huge names. We have a rhythm section and then three horns. That horn section helps kind of give it that "streetlamp" character. It helps with that distinctive sound.
CB: Tell us, in summary, what can the fans expect to see in the show?
MI: There is a lot more music we perform live than on the DVD for the folks that are familiar with us from PBS. There is a lot more music and people come away from it often saying, “I can’t believe I laughed that much” or “I didn’t expect the show to touch me emotionally like it did.”
I think people are going to laugh a lot. Hopefully they get up and dance a lot. When they leave, hopefully they feel better than when they came in from listening to this great, joyful music performed by people who really care about them having a good time.
And also, if you have got time, just check out the Under the Streetlamp Facebook page because our fans comment on there after every single show, and really their comments, and there are tons and tons of them, say it all.
CB: That was one of my next questions — are you guys using social media to promote the band?
MI: Absolutely. We have a great website and great designer. We use Facebook, we use Twitter. Any way that we can possibly interact with our fans, we do so. We answer our own e-mail. We maintain our own Facebook page. We spend a lot of time talking to our fans. Anybody that writes in and asks us a question or comments on Facebook, we interact with.
Without them, we are nobody. We make sure they not only feel welcome at the shows but feel welcome in the cyber universe 24/7.
CB: What music are you currently listening to or what is inspiring you right now?
MI: It is funny, a lot of the music that I listen to outside of the band is not music that has anything to do with what we do.
CB: That is pretty common though. I talk to Metal people all the time and they never listen to Metal music. It is really an interesting dynamic. I always find it interesting to see what people really listen to when they are not playing.
MI: Right now I am listening to Foo Fighters latest album, Wasted Life, (and) Ben Folds latest album.
American Ska legends The Toasters perform a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Showtime is 10 p.m. and — sorry, kids — you must be 21 or older to get in.
The band was one of the leading inspirations behind the "third-wave" Ska explosion of the ’90s, but the band actually began 30 years ago, influenced by the 2-Tone Ska movement in the U.K. The Toasters blend of NYC Rock and 2-Tone made them cult heroes in the Ska underground, as did the band's D.I.Y. approach; founding member (the sole one in the current lineup) Robert "Bucket" Hingley formed the influential Moon Ska Records in 1983 to release his own albums, as well as those by acts like Mustard Plug, The Slackers and Hepcat. The label's various compilations also gave a boost to up-and-coming, non-Moon acts like Less Than Jake and No Doubt.
Here's The Toasters' first music video, for the tune "Radiation Skank" off of the band's debut release, 1985's Recriminations EP (which was produced by British singer/songwriter Joe Jackson; he is to The Toasters what Elvis Costello was to The Specials).
And here is "Modern World America" off The Toasters' 2002 release, Enemy of the System.
Hunter Hayes is one of the fastest growing, most unstoppable forces rising in Country music. At just 20 years old, he recently released his debut self-titled studio album featuring the hit single “Storm Warning." In less than a year of truly being a part of the Nashville music scene he has found himself on tour with superstar acts Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts and he will be taking the main stage at the CMA Music Festival next month in one of their nightly concerts in front of 70,000+ in attendance.
CityBeat spoke with Hayes by phone recently and discussed his uniquely introspective writing and recording process as well as his passion for the fans that come out to each of his shows. Hunter will be performing at Bogart’s Friday night. It's a great opportunity to see an act that could be headlining stadiums and arenas very soon.
CityBeat: What made you decide to play all of the instruments and parts on your debut album? Do you plan to do this again on the next album?
Hunter Hayes: There is this part of my brain that I got from my Dad that is really technical, that loves technology, I guess, like fixing stuff — not fixing stuff as much as messing with it. I think that became an outlet for me. The more time I spent making music and writing the more I loved the technical side of it.
One Christmas, I asked for a 8-Track recorder and I got it and I didn’t come out of my room for like three years after that. I literally learned more instruments and spent all my time on this machine making demos and I just started building my own recordings. I didn’t know for sure but I felt inside that was the only way these songs were going to become completed and it became a way of working.
I continue to write during that process. When I moved to Nashville, I started songwriting and every time I would write a song with somebody I’d go home that night and I’d start working up a demo. It just became a way I love to work and now is the only way I know how to work. I have sat in a studio across the looking glass with some of the most phenomenal musicians in Nashville and I sit there and I am a very shy guy, naturally. I am naturally very reclusive so when I get nervous around songwriters, I am very intimidated and I don’t share my thoughts a lot like I probably should. I kind of defer to someone else. So we decided to do the record this way because they knew I was comfortable working that way and there is something cool that happens when you start recording the song playing all the instruments. It is a very minute thing but you will notice the consistency in the emotion.
And by no means do I consider myself a professional player of any of the instruments I played on the record but I guess I was fluent enough to get where my mind wanted these songs to go with what I wanted to hear for these songs. I was able to translate it from the same heart I wrote the songs.
CB: What is your favorite song you have ever written and why?
HH: Oh God … to put it in perspective for you, we had 70 songs I wrote specifically for this record that we were considering. So, it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite.
I have to say I was really fortunate because I had a big say in what songs went on this record. I actually picked all but one. This one song on the record, it is not that I don’t love it, but it is so out of character for me, I was worried about putting it on the record because I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea, because it is a very bitter song.
I chose the songs on this record carefully but emotionally. I am definitely attached to every single one of them on this record. I could say that I love everything — “Wanted” “Love Makes Me” “Somebody’s Heartbreak” and “Storm Warning.” I was very adamant about having a song like “Faith,” I wanted “Cry With You” on the record. I’m close to all the songs on the record.
I think my favorite song I have ever written is probably the one I wrote yesterday and that is always the case. Any time I write a new song, I am jazzed about it for like 24 hours and then I am over it and want to write another one.
CB: That makes sense. How does it feel to be one of the main acts at LP Field at CMA Festival this year?
HH: It’s unbelievable. Last year, I was stoked to just play on a stage in front of the Bridgestone Arena. It was a great turnout and everybody knew my name, which was amazing. I had just wrapped up six weeks on the radio tour. The song had literally just started playing on the radio and there were already tons of people singing along to “Storm Warning” that day and that blew my mind. It was a time lapse thing. I started my radio tour with this big full band showcase in Louisiana. And we initiated it with this full band big showcase for all the industry to come down and make a day out of it.
Then I went out by myself on this radio tour. I would go to these stations. I would literally bring a little mobile studio and I would build “Storm Warning” for them, and they would get their own version of “Storm Warning” by the end of the day. We did that for six weeks straight. I went home only one day, for Mother’s Day. It was just this crazy schedule.
Fast forward six weeks ahead, I come back to Nashville to play my second ever full-band gig with the band and we were playing to a crowd that was singing along to almost every song. It was really impressive and it was just mind-boggling. It is amazing what a year can do.
I am grateful that they considered me for this spot on LP Field. I have sat in the audience to watch shows there many times so it is really cool to be a part of it this time on the other side.
CB: I have seen your show several times. One of the things that always strikes me when you play is that the girls love you. Have you had any crazy fan experiences?
HH: No, not really. I will say we have a lot of fans that we see many times, a lot of repeat fans, which always makes me feel good. When someone sees a show and wants to see another one, that makes me feel like I am doing something right.
It is so funny, they will come up during the autograph signings and say “I promise you I am not stalking you.” I am like “I don’t mind! I am honored that you have taken the time to come to more than one show.” There is this one girl who has driven thousands of miles and she is always almost apologetic about it, and you don’t even know how much that makes my day. When I see her car in the parking lot and I know she is coming, that makes me feel like I am doing something right. It literally gives me a feeling I can’t describe to you.
We have a lot of fans that are doing that. We have a lot of them who have met at our shows and have become best friends and they go everywhere together now. I just feel this unity at our shows, especially the "Most Wanted" shows, the headlining shows I get to do. They are smaller venues right now and they are growing. Tonight we are doing like 1,000 seats or something like that, but it is amazing this close feeling I feel with everyone in the room. I get to chit-chat with them during the show and goof off with them and it is fun. It is a blast. I am glad to say I have fans.
Last week, Cincinnati's stars-in-the-making Walk the Moon issued the first release under its deal with RCA Records. Though only three songs, the effort is illuminating and a hint of what's to come on the band's forthcoming, so-far-untitled RCA full-length debut (due to be released this May). The Indie Dance Pop foursome has seemingly been touring and doing business related tasks non-stop for at least the last year. Now that it has a release on RCA, that will only increase. The recording is called Anna Sun EP, named for the band's irresistible tune that (along with a stellar music video) helped initially generate much of the buzz they've received fairly consistently over the past year or so.The song "Anna Sun" is on the EP, but those who have i want! i want! (the group's stellar self-released LP containing the original track) might still want to listen. It's a new version of the catchy song, slicked up a bit for radio and seemingly (inexplicably) sped up.
In the summer of 2009, several student filmmakers from Northern Kentucky University decided to make a documentary about Newport music venue the Southgate House. With a soundtrack loaded with local music (Mack West, The Tillers and many others), the movie features some great historical information about the old mansion, lovely footage of the interior and exterior of the building and lots of interviews with area musicians, music lovers, Southgate employees and longtime operator Ross Raleigh, all discussing the uniqueness of the club and what it means to the local music community. There are some prescient comments towards the end about what losing the Southgate would mean to the music scene. Click below to watch the full shebang.
The effect My Morning Jacket has had on live Rock music in America over the past several years is hard to deny. Spawned from the fertile Louisville music scene, the band’s legendary live show is an electrifying experience for all who attend. At the end of May, MMJ put out its sixth studio album, Circuital, which earned a career-high first-week entry into the Billboard Top 200 album chart, bowing at No. 5. Bo Koster, MMJ keyboardist since 2004, joining the band during the gap between its major label debut, It Still Moves, and the wildly diverse Z. CityBeat spoke with Koster about the band’s Cincinnati stop Wednesday at PNC Pavilion with Neko Case, as well as My Morning Jacket’s memorable live performances and passion for local record shops.
Whether you call him Beelzebub, Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Mephistopheles, or just the plain ole devil (it’s all about your preferred nomenclature, man) there is no denying the big guy downstairs has been a huge influence on Rock & Roll.
There have been a plethora of songs written about the dark lord (no I’m not talking about Voldemort, you posers) but the real question is — what are Satan’s favorite songs about himself?
So, like the top-notch investigative journalism team we are at the CityBeat music department, my editor Mike Breen and I bought some pig’s blood, drew a pentagram on the floor, lit some candles, recited some Latin and summoned the fallen angel himself.
After a long discussion on various human subjects — how Mitt Romney is in fact not the antichrist, but just an idiot; the state of Gene Simmons' soul and why he is going to hell (apparently, it’s not for his satanic look or the thousand acts of pre-marital sex, but for turning KISS into the biggest whore in the music industry) — Mephistopheles disappeared back into the hell mouth as quick as he came. (Who said real journalism was dead?)
Yet, left in his place was an evil list compiled by the demon of his Top 10 favorite songs about himself, with the instruction to print them without changes. (Satan’s actually a very polite guy but super narcissistic.) So, in honor of his wishes (and extra conscious of our agreement that riches will be bestowed on CityBeat if we completed the task), here are the Top 10 songs about Satan.
10. “Baptized in Flames” – Skeletonwitch
You ever wanted to know what Antichrist’s birth would be like? If so, you’re in luck because Athens, Ohio, natives Skeletonwitch give us a pretty vivid description of the scene.
Minus the death of the mother, inverted crosses burning, men dying and the overall end-times vibe, this birth isn’t all that different from a normal one. But let’s be honest, no matter who’s being popped out, the birthing process is pretty disgusting.
9. “Super-Charger Heaven” – White Zombie
If I had never seen an interview with Rob Zombie (he seems like a really nice guy), I would truly believe this guy had some serious demonic connections. From his grade-A horror films to his music riddle with witches, blood rituals and general spine-chilling terror, he is the poster child for all things evil.
Although his later solo work is a little campy at times, White Zombie always brought the hellish vibe to their brand of Groove Meta and they showcased it no better than on their 1995 single, “Super-Charger Heaven.”
8. “Beezleboss” – Tenacious D
Did you know it’s in the demon by-laws to never turn down a rock-off challenge? I didn’t either. Not until the cataclysmic disappointment, “Pick of Destiny,” came out in 2006 at least.
Even though this movie was shittier than the end of The
Human Centipede, Satan’s gut-busting drum solo (although impressive) wasn’t
enough to outmatch Tenacious D’s power of Rock and friendship, not only saving Kage’s
eternal soul (and anal virginity) but sending the devil back to hell and
finally finding a way to pay their damn rent. (Satan says he found it "cute" that the band would write a fictional song about defeating him and picked this song because he's angling for a part in Kung Fu Panda 4 with Jack Black.)
7. “Con Clavi Con Dio” – Ghost
Sweden probably isn’t the first nation you think of as a hotbed for satanic music (I know, ABBA was scary but definitely not satanic), but when Ghost’s Opus Eponymous came out in 2010, the band took another step towards making that a reality.
This whole album is just one big love letter to the prince of darkness and the first four lines of “Con Clavi Con Dio” says it all: “Lucifer/ We are here/ For your praise/Evil one.”
Overall, I don’t know what’s creepier — this band’s all-inclusive scare factor or their borderline stalker obsession with Satan. (Lucifer, if you’re reading this, you may want to consider a restraining order against these guys. I know they’re from Sweden, but I don’t think they are messing around.)
6. “Mean as Hell” – Johnny Cash
Besides making a star out of Honey Boo Boo and working as an investment banker on Wall Street, Satan says all he really ever wanted was a land to call his own. So God, like the sly dog he is, tried pull a fast one on his old nemesis, giving him the poorest land he had, the Rio Grande.
The Devil, being the mean son of bitch that he is, took God’s offering and riddled the area with scorpions, thorn trees, tarantulas, rattlesnakes and 110-degree weather, making the best hell on earth he could (take that God!).
In the end, Satan proved God wrong, but what’s more interesting is — who is meaner, Johnny Cash or Satan? Sure, Satan made the Rio Grande hell on earth, but Cash lived in it. My money’s on the “Man in Black.”
5. “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones
The devil has been a busy man over the years. He was “’Round when Jesus Christ/Had his moment of doubt and pain” and “Held a general's rank/When the Bliztkrieg raged/And the bodies stank.”
Even though I’m not that particularly puzzled by the nature of his game (am I the only one seeing the trend of death here?), it’s definitely one of the most iconic and politically-driven songs Satan ever inspired.
4. “The Oath” – Mercyful Fate
Kind Diamond is like the satanic equivalent of Pat Robertson. Sure, this guy isn’t actually a Satanist but over his illustrious career, his distaste for organized religion, overtly satanic lyrical content and general creepy demeanor has surely put him in good standing with the minions of hell’s army and their general.
I really could have picked almost any song from the King Diamond catalog, but this one — from the band he fronts, Mercyful Fate — really showcases his unconditional love for Lucifer. Really though, Diamond’s undying love for Satan is only comparable to the love Ryan Seacrest has for hair gel and being a douche. If the song weren’t so damn evil, it would almost bring me to tears.
3. “Hell Awaits” – Slayer
As if this song wasn’t scary enough running normally, apparently if you play “Hell Awaits” backwards, about two minutes in there is a hidden message that repeats "join us" over and over again. Joining what exactly, I’m not sure. Slayer fans? An indoor soccer league? The wait staff at the Olive Garden? Who knows?
What’s really funny, though, is that people freak out when they hear Slayer has a “satanic message” when you play it backwards. Really? If you listen to the song forward, the “satanic messages” are even more explicit. Jeez people, the whole thing is about Satan! It’s Slayer, what do you expect?
2. “N.I.B.” – Black Sabbath
Aside from “Sympathy for the Devil” this is the only other song on this list written from the perspective of Lucifer. Besides the monster riff and Black Sabbath general early awesomeness, what makes this track phenomenal is that it's about Satan falling in love and trying to become a good person.
Though knowing that information makes this song seem a little less evil and is slightly reminiscent of a Joss Whedon plotline (no dig there, it’s just true), it exemplifies why Black Sabbath will always be the best Metal band of all time — its creativity.
Personally, I wish Ben Gibbard would do one of his so cute (it makes me want to puke) acoustic covers of this song so I can play it at my wedding (like that’ll ever happen).
1. “Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden
I’ve always been a bit confused when it comes to the actual logistics of this song. I mean, did he see this satanic ritual happening or not? My personal belief is that Steve Harris (lead guitar/writer) took one too many hits of LSD, watched The Omen II and had the most terrifying trip known to modern man.
Either way, “Number of the Beast" solidified Bruce Dickinson as Maiden's new lead singer (even though I’m more a Paul Di’anno fan myself) and made Maiden titans in the Metal genre.
Remember — I’m just the middleman here. If you have a problem with this list, I’m sure Satan would be willing to hear you out. (Here’s his contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: This morning I sent Blake's write-up to Satan for approval (we usually don't do that, but, hey, it's Satan), he responded with a curt, all caps message: "WHERE IS MY FAVORITE BAND HOGSCRAPER!!! I WILL BRING YOU DOWN HERE EARLY IF YOU DON'T ADD MY THEME SONG!!! THANKS!!! HAIL ME!!!" He's referring to the mysterious, undead Cincinnati "Satanic Bluegrass" band Hogscraper and I can only assume his "theme song" is the one below. When I texted him just before posting I informed him that Hogscraper was back from the dead and headlining this Saturday's "Grand Opening Redux" concert at the new Southgate House Revival. "NO SHIT. I'LL BE THERE WITH SCARY BELLS ON. PRE-GAMING @ HOOTERS BEFOREHAND IF YOU WANNA HANG OUT!"
The sixth season of TV One's entertaining and informative Unsung series, showcasing artists who did well but didn't quite reach the heights many expected, kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with an episode about the late, great Soul star Isaac Hayes. Next week, on Jan. 30, the series focuses on a group that was formed at Kentucky State University and ended up calling Cincinnati its home base — Midnight Star.
The R&B/ElectroFunk nine-piece band was a major success in the ’80s, giving the music world massive hits like "Slow Jam," "No Parking on the Dance Floor" and "Freak-a-Zoid." But the band eventually splintered — due to "arguments over money and management," according to the Unsung synopsis — with Reggie Calloway and brother Vincent leaving and eventually forming Calloway (which had success with the smash "I Wanna Be Rich" in 1989).
Midnight Star carried on and produced a couple more albums that featured R&B chart hits before taking a break. The "hiatus" ended in 2000 and Midnight Star continues to this day, performing most recently at the Macy's Music Festival last summer. Click here to read up on the band circa 2013.
The Unsung series has a loose definition of "unsung" (as the Isaac Hayes episode suggests), but its profiles of various R&B/Soul, Hip Hop, Funk and Gospel artists are always fairly illuminating. The show has dedicated episodes to a wide range of successful artists, from The Ohio Players and Zapp to Kool Mo Dee and Big Daddy Kane to George Clinton, The Spinners and another Cincinnati-affiliated star, Bootsy Collins.
Unsung (Documentary) - Bootsy Collins... by GENERATIONDISCOFUNK
The rest of Unsung's season six includes episodes on EPMD, Lou Rawls, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers, Mint Condition, Johnny Gill and a special two-hour look at the Disco phenomenon.
TV One is channel 217 for local Time Warner Cable subscribers (1217 for the HD channel).