MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks.
And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
F.Stokes (New York City, NY)
With a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen)
F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple."
Ami Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)
Classically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.
Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)
Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant."
LOCAL LOCK PICK
Culture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)
Known for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe.
Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)
Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned).
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
MPMF news and musings: The official MidPoint Music Festival guide (on the streets of Greater Cincinnati until Wednesday, then resurfacing when it's MPMF-time) included a few feature stories this year about some of the festival's bonus features and additions. Read Leyla Shokoohe's interview with MPMF main-man, CityBeat's own Dan McCabe, about the fest's dedication to Over-the-Rhine and new MPMF venues Washington Park and the Emery Theatre here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 12 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Grizzly Bear (Brooklyn, NY)
Indie Art Pop
When this year’s initial MPMF performers were announced, eclectic Brooklyn crew Grizzly Bear was by far the name that seemed to most excite fest-goers. The group’s eccentric mix of artsy arrangements, organic psychedelia and boundless experimentalism has been earning the fans an ever-increasing and loyal fanbase since their lysergic debut release in 2004. Though continually adventurous, the band’s sound has grown and matured with the size of its following — 2009’s Veckatimest debuted at No. 8 on Billboard’s album chart and seemingly made every single music critic in the world’s “Top 10 Best” list that year. Expect an even bigger response from critics and fans when Grizzly Bear finally unleashes the much-anticipated new release, Shields, released just prior to the band’s MPMF stop. There’s a very good chance one of MPMF.12’s biggest acts will be sporting a Top 10 album by the time they get to Washington Park (an MPMF first).
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Brian Wilson at his “off-the-meds” creative peak, listening to an “AM Gold” Soft Rock compilation and a Kraut Rock comp after drinking gallons of psychedelic mushroom tea.
Grizzly Bear headlines the Washington Park stage on Friday, Sept. 28 at 8:30 p.m. The band performed the lead-off track from its new Shields album, "Sleeping Ute," on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night. Take a look/listen:
Rich Aucoin (Halifax, CAN)
On his enthralling 2011 full-length, We’re All Dying to Live, Canadian musician Rich Aucoin decided he’d invite Canada to record with him. As a result, the album features over 500 musicians, whose teaming on Aucoin’s dynamic, funky and craftily constructed tracks makes Dying to Live sound like the Electro Disco party of the century. But it’s not just a mindless exercise in dancefloor stereotypes — there’s depth and nuance to Aucoin’s songwriting and layering that might not be noticeable initially. Unlike a lot of Dance acts, Aucoin’s music isn’t disposable fun — it’s essential and commands repeated listens.
Dig: ’80s Synth Pop, ’70s Disco, of Montreal, 4AD artists, Chic and Duran Duran in art school together.
Rich Aucoin performs at Below Zero Lounge on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 11 p.m. Here is the hour-long film created to sync up with We're All Dying to Live (plus, of course, the full album for a free preview listen).
MPMF news and musings: Kick-ass longtime MPMF sponsor Dewey's Pizza is giving away a trio of special "Next Level Experience" passes for you and two of your closest friends (or, I suppose, you could give them to people you hate, though that would just be kinda weird).
If you win, you'll receive a three-day wristband and one night at the Dewey's Pizza/Grammer's stage in the best seat in the house (which appears to be a couch positioned very close to the stage). For more on Dewey's Next Level Experience contest, click here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 13 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks, today featuring all Ohio artists …
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland, OH)
From his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi created and released several acclaimed lo-fi recordings as Cloud Nothings before his 2009 EP, Turning On, pinged the critics’ radar and scored positive reviews on all the right blogs. Almost immediately, Baldi had to assemble a band to play the gigs that were offered to him, resulting in lots of touring and his slightly shinier 2011 self-titled full-length. This year has seen the release of the even more expansive Attack on Memory and a string of upcoming opening dates for Silversun Pickups. Not a bad three years for a Hardcore obsessed kid from Cleveland.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The idea of Tommy Keene and Kevin Seconds stirring up some Pop and some Punk for a Husker Du tribute. (Brian Baker)
Cloud Nothings perform at Midnight on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club. Here's the official music video for Cloud Nothings' "No Future/No Past."
Blowfly hatched from Soul songwriter/producer Clarence
Reid’s depraved imagination as his alter ego who loves to make parodies
about, well, getting off.
As Blowfly, he rapped nasty ditties decades before Too Short and 2 Live Crew. In the ’70s and ’80s, Reid released a slew of Adults Only party records as Blowfly on his own Weird World record label, all the while writing and producing for R&B artists like Betty Wright, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, KC & the Sunshine Band — and himself.
At the time, fans of Reid (and even his family) didn’t know about his career as Blowfly. His appeal remained underground. Like Rudy Ray Moore, who also built his following imitating the street culture of signifying, Blowfly’s poetic toasts were tall tales about size and strength. On “Rapp Dirty,” he spits an outrageous storyline of him as a sexual superhero whipping the Ku Klux Klan with his tool. A 45 spelled “Rap Dirty” from 1965, with him rhyming to a beat like Southern radio disc jockeys, is considered by many collectors to be the first Rap record.
Even bawdier at 73, Blowfly still makes music, and in 2011, he was featured in a documentary about his career, The Weird World of Blowfly. (The film is available on Netflix; check out the trailer below). In it, the caped crusader’s very elderly mother remembers that he said his first cussword when he was 9 months old and told her his okra tasted “ass-ty.”
Blowfly is currently touring the Midwest and Canada on his “Porno Freak” tour.
If you still have the energy after ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the fireworks on the river Sunday night — or if you're avoiding them altogether because you hate crowds (I'll be live tweeting the TV broadcast of the fireworks for all you homebodies) — two great Ohio bands are performing for free at Over-the-Rhine club MOTR Pub immediately following the big booms.
The fireworks after-party kicks off with Columbus Indie Rock crew Indigo Wild, a crafty, eclectic band that has built a nice following in Cincy thanks to frequent performances in the area (band members live in both Cincinnati and Ohio's capital). Here's a fun music video for Indigo Wild's song "Rowboats," featured on the band's debut release, the If By Sea EP (which came out last year around this time; click here to listen or purchase).
Headlining the show are The Ridges, an Athens, Ohio-based Orchestral Indie Folk troupe that has also amassed a solid following in Cincinnati. The MidPoint Music Festival vets — who perform in different configurations, depending on which members are available (including string and horn players) — return to play MPMF.12 in a few weeks. The Ridges are currently prepping a full-length album (recorded here in Cincinnati), so fans may even get a few new songs at the MOTR show.
The group performed at this summer's MidPoint Indie Summer concert series on Fountain Square, where they did an interview with CityBeat's John Byrne for a cool video feature. Learn more about the band and hear a few snippets of music in the piece below. (You can view more videos from Byrne's Indie Summer video series here.)
• Downtown at Arnold's tonight (Friday), catch influential cult hero Paleface, a man who has been on the cutting edge of contemporary music's continual fascination with traditional Folk music and an influence on some of the more adventurous musicians who seek to translate that vintage spirit into their own voice. Over the past 20-plus years, the singer/songwriter has been an Anti Folk torchbearer and an Indie Folk mentor, first learning songwriting and lo-fi recordings from underground legend Daniel Johnston in the late ’80s. From there he went on to teach a few tricks to roommate Beck (pre-fame), help the so-called "Freak Folk" scene grow freakier and folkier and collaborate frequently with pals The Avett Brothers. Whether directly or indirectly, if you dig today's "Indie Folk" — or any brand of slanted or subversive Americana — you've likely heard the results of Paleface's unique influence. Click here to read more.
Paleface's show tonight at Arnold's is free and — icing on the cake — great local Folk Pop group Shiny and the Spoon opens the show at 9 p.m. The gig will also be the first one for which Arnold's has commissioned a special concert poster. Crafted by talented local artist Keith Neltner (who has done commissioned poster art for Alice in Chains, Modest Mouse, Hank Williams III, The Avett Brothers, Cake, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and many others), the prints (pictured above) are available for $25 while they last (only 50 were pressed).
Here's Paleface's video for his ode to NYC, fittingly titled "New York, New York."
UPDATE: Arnold's just announced this afternoon that Paleface has cancelled due to illness. A rescheduled date is in the works. Shiny and the Spoon is still performing.
• After the best summer series yet, the final MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square goes down tonight at 7 p.m. And the every-Friday series is going out with a bang, featuring a flawless triple bill of local acts. Things get started with superb modern Soul translators The Guitars, who will be followed by the duo R. Ring, featuring Dayton, Ky.'s Mike Montgomery (longtime local engineer ad musician, currently with Ampline) and Dayton, Ohio's Kelley Deal (The Breeders). R. Ring spoke with CityBeat's Brian Baker about the project in this week's paper. Read it online here.
Headlining tonight's Fountain Square concert is Wussy, the now-veteran four-piece that is gearing up for some huge happenings on the horizon, including tour dates with The Afghan Whigs and Heartless Bastards and a trip to the U.K. by co-frontpeople/singer/guitarists Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver (playing as a duo) for several shows in support of the band's first U.K. release, Buckeye, a retrospective that came out to glowing reviews this summer. Read more about Wussy's many goings on here.
Here's the skate video by Kristian Svitak that R. Ring helped re-soundtrack. After DEVO's record label removed the video because it used the group's song "Mr. DNA," Svitak got together to record a new version with Deal and Montgomery. The song in the re-edited video was so popular, R. Ring released it as a limited edition single and local label Phratry Records released it digitally. (Click here to get your own copy.)
• Popular local Gypsy Jazz favorites and Django Reinhardt devotees The Faux Frenchmen celebrate the group's 10th anniversary tonight with a show at downtown's Blue Wisp Jazz Club. A decade ago this fall, the band (which features esteemed local musicians George Cunningham, Brian Lovely, Paul Patterson and Don Aren) made its debut, starting an every-Monday residency at former Clifton restaurant Tink's. Over the years, the band has only gotten more popular, drawing attention from outside of Cincinnati and performing numerous road dates (this fall they return for their sixth appearance at the annual Jazz at Chautauqua Festival in New York).
The band's anniversary show begins at 8:30 p.m. and admission is $10. Here's a clip from the Frenchmen performing on another anniversary — Reinhardt's birthday (taken from one of their annual appearances on WNKU in honor of Django).
• The performers for the weekly "Friday Flow" concerts at Washington Park are always a bit of a surprise because the lineups have been announced within only a week or two of the performances. It's also a surprise because the featured act is usually something pleasantly unexpected. Dayton Funk greats Lakeside ("Fantastic Voyage") popped up one week and Neo Soul star Dwele launched the series this summer.
Tonight's free Friday Flow concert is another cool, unanticipated treat. Just announced earlier this week, the show will feature R&B singer Chrisette Michele, a Hip Hop hook-singer extraordinaire (with Jay-Z, Nas, The Game and others) who has also had a successful career on her own, releasing a handful of acclaimed, charting albums for Def Jam.
The other headliner is Rob Base, a Hip Hop artist most know from his 1988 hit with DJ E-Z Rock, "It Takes Two."
Because of the volleyball tournament in Washington Park tonight, gates for the concert won't open until 7:30 p.m. Another change from the usual Friday Flow flow (also due to volleyball) — no food, drinks or coolers will be permitted (this weekend only). Extra food vendors will be on hand to feed the masses.
Click here for even more live music events going on tonight in Greater Cincy.
That big annual rite of passage into autumn, the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Fireworks (a.k.a. "The Fireworks"), goes down this Sunday on the Ohio River. To get people warmed up for the big booms, a full slate of live music has once again been booked for the P&G Pavilion stage at Sawyer Point. Impressively, the bands booked for the stage all play original music, mostly in the vein of the Hard Rock/Metal/Modern Rock the FM station plays regularly. The lineup is localcentric, featuring area rockers like Cincinnati Sinners, Eyes On Tomorrow and Cinema Sleep, plus Dayton's Black Cloud Syndrome. (Click here for the schedule.)
But the most unusual choice for the lineup has to be the Pop/Rock/Punk foursome Mixtapes. Not that the nationally-acclaimed band (slated to perform at 1:45 p.m.) will get pelted with eggs or anything … their sound's just not as WEBN-friendly as the other groups playing. It's kind of like having Superchunk open for Papa Roach.
After showering fireworks fans with their punchy, melodic stylings, Mixtapes gets ready for a busy fall. At the end of this month, they kick off a string of dates with Aficionado that'll take them coast-to-coast over the course of about three weeks. Right after that, they'll hop onto another tour, this time with Such Gold, that will have them traveling throughout the South and hitting even more East Coast and Midwest cities.
Near the end of the announced tour dates (on Oct. 30, to be exact), Mixtapes' label — Anaheim, Calif.-based Animal Style Records — has announced it will be releasing a mostly acoustic nine-track EP titled How to Throw a Successful Party. The release was originally put out as a free digital bonus for fans pre-ordering Mixtapes' 2011 LP, Maps & Companions. The official release of Party will be available digitally or on vinyl. Animal Style is releasing just 500 one-sided 12-inch versions, available on yellow, blue and green wax.
Here's a great press release quote from singer/guitarist Ryan Rockwell (formerly of local groups like Small Time Crooks and Black Tie Bombers) about How to Throw a Successful Party: "So we originally recorded this to come out for free alongside Maps & Companions and we were really stoked on it. It was 9 acoustic (mostly) songs and we're really happy with them. People have been asking for a while about it being on vinyl and now the time seems right, so the great Matt Medina is putting it out on Animal Style Records! It's gonna come out at Fest and be limited to 500. If you are reading this on a blog or news website I look forward to reading about how much we suck."
He ends with, "We are happy this is coming out on vinyl and you should buy it on all 3 colors because that's what ICP does and they are rich."
Read more about Mixtapes in CityBeat's July feature story on the band here. Here's the cover art for the forthcoming release.
There has been more activity downtown at the former home of the historic Herzog recording studios than there has been since the studio’s heyday in the ’40s, when legendary songs were recorded by everyone from Flatt and Scruggs and Patti Page to The Delmore Brothers and Hank Williams. (For some background on Herzog, check out this CityBeat feature by Rick Bird.) This week sees a double dose of activity relating to the Herzog legacy.
• The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation is, fittingly, headquartered in the former Herzog space (on the second floor of 811 Race St.) and has hosted numerous Herzog-related events over the past few years. Late last year, CUMHF presented “Come Play the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” inspired by last year’s Lost Notebooks compilation project, which featured various top-name artists bringing to life lyrics Williams had left behind.
The Foundation invited several local musicians to gather at the studio and record some of those songs last year. The jam — which included noted players like David Rhodes Brown, Ed Cunningham, Marvin Hawkins and Mark Utley, among others — was recorded and, this Thursday, Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation will issue its first official release, a four-track EP culled from the sessions. Come Play The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams At Herzog is a digital release with a visual art component — small, signed-and-numbered prints by artist Keith Neltner (pictured).
Thursday at the 811 Race St. space, the limited-edition digital EP/art package of Come Play The Lost Notebooks will be available for $20. (You can pre-order the EP, the proceeds from which go to CUMHF, here). Admission to the 7 p.m. shindig is a $5 donation to CUMHF (or free if you purchase an EP). The event will also include a screening of video chronicling the entire “Guitar Army” event last summer on Fountain Square, where numerous local guitarists paid tribute to the Rock & Roll standard, “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” (the original was recorded at the King Records' facility on Brewster Ave. and the event celebrated the recording’s 60th anniversary).
For more on the event and the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, visit takingyoutothebridge.org. Check the Facebook event page for further info here.
Here's the original version of a song remade for CUMHF's Lost Notebooks EP, Alan Jackson doing "You've Been Lonesome, Too." On the EP, Mark Utley and Renee Frye of Magnolia Mountain provide the vocals.
• Local musician Kelly Thomas spent many years organizing ambitious benefit concerts. That ambitious approach returns in a new form with her latest creative project, “Sacred Harp Sessions,” a series of videos that will chronicle the source of much of the singer’s inspiration — the rich musical climate of Greater Cincinnati.
Thomas is collaborating with 12 of her favorite local bands on 12 songs, with a video documenting each session (plus an introduction “sharing some of the great things happening in our music community,” Thomas says) becoming the monthly series installment. Thomas plans to unveil one Sacred Heart Session episode each month for a year, then release the songs as an LP. A limited number of free downloads of the songs will be made available after the videos post.
The first Sacred Harp Sessions video premieres Saturday at kellythomasonline.com and on Thomas’ YouTube channel (KellyThomasMusic). In the debut episode, Thomas talks about the legacy of King Records and the Herzog studio. Then, cameras follow her as she records “Lost Highway” by Herzog’s most famous client, Hank Williams, in the actual Herzog space along with great local Roots troupe Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound.
Saturday, Thomas and her Fabulous Pickups and McKinley and Co. will help launch the series with a concert at Covington’s Madison Theater. The Great Depression (featuring the Lonesome Sound’s Tim Carr and Jeremy Pinnell of Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s) will reteam for a rare performance; rockin’ Roots crew The Sleepin’ Dogs rounds out the bill. Cover is $6 and the 9 p.m. concert is open to all ages.
Here's Hank Williams' version of "Lost Highway."