I caught a tweet from Noam Pikelny (The Punch Brothers) the other night. It said the new Rascal Flatts song “Banjo” made him want to kill a small pet. While I tend to steer clear of anything involving Gary LeVox and the gang, I will listen to anything involving a banjo. So, I clicked on his link to a YouTube video.
I made it to the end of the chorus before I not only stopped the video, but I shut down my entire web browser. The last two lines of the chorus are, “And you kick it into four-wheel drive when you run out of road and you go, and you go and you go-go-go/’Til you hear a banjo.”
Of course I understand that “Banjo” is supposed to be a fun, light-hearted song, but I still don’t appreciate the fact that these “country artists” have once again tried to associate the banjo with little more than Deliverance.
There’s something about the written word that adds finality to a subject. Contracts are finished with a signature, newspapers are often considered bastions of truth and obituaries often put a person’s death in perspective for their loved ones. Perhaps this is why I put off writing this story for so long; I didn’t want to admit the truth: at the end of the year, two of the most important places in my life will cease to be. The Mad Hatter has already shuttered its doors and the Southgate House is closing after Saturday. And I can’t quite bring myself to accept that.
This might seem somewhat blasphemous, but I hold no real alliance with the Southgate House. I moved back here from Florida to go to college. The greatest benefit to moving here was that I was no longer in the South Florida concert rut. Cincinnati is right in the path between a lot of much larger cities. I was excited to be somewhere that would, hopefully, get more concerts than Palm Beach. This proved mostly true. But, more often than not, I still find myself heading to Cleveland, Chicago or Nashville for gigs. Which is why, after living here for six years, I’d only stepped foot in the Southgate House a couple times. But that’s only a minor reason as to why I’m not exactly heartbroken to see the venue close.
At the City & Colour concert at Bogart's a while back, I watched as a woman in the front row texted her way through both of the great opening acts. I glanced around and discovered that she wasn’t the only one. I figured everyone would surely stop when Dallas Green and the rest of C&C took to the stage. Three songs in and the crowd was still lit up by glowing phones.
Everywhere I looked people were texting, tweeting, facebooking or recording the night away. Often, both members of a couple would be recording the same song. As if the iPhone 12 inches to the left might just capture something different from theirs. I watched as a group of friends passed around a cell phone with a message from another friend who, I assume, wasn’t present (or maybe they were just three feet over). Meanwhile, the band played on.
This left me disappointed in humanity.
What are your favorite memories from the Southgate House?
On Monday night/Tuesday morning this week, as news that the popular Newport music venue would cease to exist (in its current state, at least) leaked out, I watched a steady stream of comments on Facebook respond to the news with a mix of stunned disbelief and sad nostalgia, as fans of the club shared some of their best stories and memories.
Many people were quite emotional, and I wondered why I wasn't having similar feelings. Since the late ’80s, I had been a frequent visitor to the club, and, over the entire span of my 20 years writing about music in Greater Cincinnati, I have consistently covered events at the venue. I was not totally unmoved by the sudden announcement, but I certainly wasn't as shaken as others appeared to be.
Last night, this year's Grammy nominations were announced. Apparently. I flipped to the 10 p.m. "announcement" — CBS's The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — a few times but didn't hear one word about who was nominated. Although the all-star rendition of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's Hip Hop classic (host LL Cool J called it "the greatest Hip Hop song of all time") was cool to see, the tributes to Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber (with their songwriting-duo partners Valerie Simpson and Mike Stoller) was a nice touch and the closing Lady Gaga/Sugarland collaboration was at least interesting. Thanks to ye olde internets, I was finally able to see who was nominated this year and, I have to say, once again the list of nominees is more surprising than what we've come to expect from the Grammys. In past years, Paul Simon's latest album, So Beautiful or So What, would have scored nominations in almost every category it was eligible. But this year, it was completely snubbed.
Below are a few random observations about the nominations this year. Click here to view the full list of nominees (or here for a PDF file download). The 54th Grammys ceremony is Feb. 12, airing on CBS.
• Cincinnati native Fred Hersch (pictured) scored two nominations this year. (Click here for Brian Baker's interview with Hersch for CityBeat from earlier this year when he came to town for a two-night stand at the Blue Wisp.) The well-known and respected Jazz pianist (who grew up in North Avondale and attended Walnut Hills High School) is up for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his Alone at the Vanguard, as well as "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" (which may just be my favorite category, at least in spirit) for his solo on that album's track "Work."
As I watched the news of Gaddafi’s death yesterday morning (and heard the news about the Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night), I couldn’t help thinking about how humans have had a pretty good year so far. To be clear, I don’t think the answer to murder is more killing — I didn’t rejoice in the death of another human. What I was so optimistic about was the sheer power behind the human voice. I’m excited to witness millions of people all over the world using their voices to stand up for what they want.
Music Tonight: Cleveland Art Punk band HotChaCha bring its dancey Post Punk rhythms and soulful melodies to Newport’s Southgate House tonight, playing the club’s Parlour room. The show is the fourth date on the Northern Ohio foursome’s extensive nationwide run with eclectic upstate New York Indie septet Summer People (which has been compared to The Cramps and Nick Cave), promoting the two bands’ split 12-inch EP release, Do It. The vinyl release is a limited edition, but in cyberspace, there are no limits, so give the EP a listen here.
Music Tonight: This is the start of one of the more jam-packed music weekends of the summer, with numerous festivals (Feywill, Swinefest, Ohmstead, Taste of Blue Ash, Whispering Beard) competing with some quality club shows, concerts at larger venues and more. First up, a look at the less local-music-centric lineup for Swinefest and the always interesting bookings for Taste of Blue Ash.
Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway warm things up.