There are concerts that are fun and there are concerts that kick your ass. If you were at the sold-out U.S. Bank Arena Friday night for the opening date of The Black Keys first headlining arena tour, you probably got your ass kicked.
First up, Arctic Monkeys caused a ruckus on the floor. Most (but not all) of the folks in the seats wandered around aimlessly or sat there, watching listlessly. There was certainly uproar in front of the stage, though. But as the English boys played, sang and sassed, the crowd in the arena filled in and loosened up. It helped that their lighting guys strobed the shit out of them, too. The seizure-inducing lights may have been Morse code for “Love Arctic Monkeys. Swoon over our accents.” If so, it worked. By the time Arctic Monkeys closed with “When the Sun Goes Down,” the crowd on the floor had nearly doubled and, at the very least, those in their seats were nodding their heads and smiling. Those boys put on a fun show.
After spending the entire intermission only getting halfway through the beer line, nearly everyone gave up and fled to their seats when The Black Keys began. Not that anyone sat, though — they were all too busy dancing and freaking out. Strictly speaking, The Black Keys may not be from Cincinnati but it’s safe to say we treat them like hometown boys, anyway. Dan Auerbach (singing/guitar) even recalled playing Southgate House a few years ago. Upstairs. In the small room.
From a titanic disco ball that lowered from the rafters (for only one song) to the graphics on the screens behind them, the show was far different from their days playing tiny rooms. With each beginning there was an outburst of recognition. The middles of songs gave way to dancing, flailing and air guitar (or drums) and each ending note was drowned out by thousands of shrieks, whistles and catcalls.
Two things were learned last night. First, if you have any doubt about the amount of noise that one guitar and a set of drums can make, go see The Black Keys. Their albums don’t do justice to the sheer volume Auerbach and Partrick Carney (drums) are capable of producing. Second, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard an entire arena try to whistle.
If you weren’t there, you missed the best kind of Friday night possible. If you were, you’re probably already making plans for the next time The Black Keys come to town.
Last night at Covington's Madison Theater, the 15th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony once again brought together people from all facets of the Greater Cincinnati music scene and gave them one hell of a party. Along with offering one of the best people-watching experiences of the year, the packed crowd in attendance was treated to great "mini-sets" (usualy about three tunes) from local bands Pomegranates (who also played the event's after-party at the nearby Mad Hatter), Young Heirlooms, Los Honchos, Two Headed Dog and Wussy, who closed the night out with songs from their recently released fourth album, Strawberry.
"Thanks for voting for us," Wussy's guitarist/vocalist Chuck Cleaver deadpanned as they began.
While Strawberry is among the (if not the) best albums released in 2011 so far, it missed the cut-off to be nominated for a 2011 CEA. (To be in the running, albums had to have been released between early Oct. 2010 and Oct. 2011.) Maybe (probably) next year, Wussy!
Opening Cincinnati's summer concert season is always a difficult duty. A constantly fickle city in terms of their live music, Cincinnati crowds demand constant excitement and stroking from the band they are witnessing. Well, then what better band to choose for this tedious task than Kings of Leon?
There is no mystery in music anymore.
I‘ve been trying to find a scapegoat to blame for this. Most notably, I’d like to blame KISS for taking off their make-up in ’83, unveiling the Demon and Star Child as just a couple of goofy-looking New Yorkers dressed up like extras from a Dokken video.
But as much as I’d love to blame KISS for taking the mystery out of music (Gene Simmons ruins most things so it was a good guess), the problem really lies with the internet and the digital age we are consumed by. (Thanks, Al Gore!) When was the last time you went on Google and couldn’t find what you were looking for? With a few easy clicks, you can find answers to some of life’s most important questions like, "Who was the second guy from Wham?" (Andrew Ridgeley) and was Liam Neeson actually on an episode of Miami Vice (yes, he was).
But even with the constant flow of status updates, tweets and information that has caught Americans in this perpetual technology loop, over the last five months there has been one artist that has captured some sense of anonymity in the music industry. That artist is Captain Murphy.
For those of you who don’t know who Captain Murphy is, don’t worry. No one does.
When Captain Murphy burst onto the scene with his impressive verse on Flying Lotus’ Adult Swim single, “Between Friends," the music media and Hip Hop heads alike immediately got a raging hard-on for the guy. His use of voice modulation and his style, which carries the complexities of MF DOOM’s flow with just a hint of the silly attitude of Tyler, The Creator, caused a sea of speculation about his identity and spawned more gossip than when Honey Boo Boo Child gets pregnant before her My Super Sweet 16 special.
After the release of “Between Friends,” Murphy has intermittently dropped singles over the last couple months, turning the internet into his own personal Gotham City (Murphy playing the part of the Dark Knight) and leaving every music journalist and tons of Hip Hop fans trying to figure out who the hell is playing Bruce Wayne.
Now, Captain Murphy has dropped his mix tape, Duality, which takes the listener on a 35-minute Psychedelic Hip Hop excursion into the mind of a cult leader and has only heightened the anxiety attacks over his true identity.
But what’s the point?
Can we, journalist and fans, just relish in the secrecy of this up and coming artist without freaking the fuck out about it? I know that our job as journalists is to report information that people want/need to know, but I didn’t think obsessing over people who just want to make music and making their lives more difficult was in the job description.
The perfect example is last year’s music industry enigma, Earl Sweatshirt.
When the music media received news that Earl Sweatshirt, the most mysterious figure of the then-exploding Odd Future gang, was nowhere to be found, they began foaming at the mouth. The “Free Earl” campaign and the lack of knowledge of his whereabouts were covered by everyone from bottom feeder music blogs to The New York Times. But while Earl wasn’t even in the country (he was allegedly located at a troubled boy’s camp in Samoa), America was getting their rocks off on glorifying him as Hip Hop’s second coming and propelling him into stardom and fame before he was even old enough to vote.
Sweatshirt tackles this invasion of privacy on his latest single “Chum,” when he spits, “Tolerance for boundaries, I know you happy now/Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down/Just to be the guys that did it, like I like attention/Not the type where niggas trying to get a raise at my expense/Supposed to be grateful, right, like thanks so much you made my life/Harder and the ties between my mom and I strained and tightened/Even more than they were before all of this shit/Been back a week and I already feel like calling it quits.”
It’s a shame that our insatiable infatuation with artists has been pushed to the point where we force young creators like Sweatshirt (and, to an extent, the seemingly fragile mainstream crossover star Frank Ocean) to want to give up on their budding careers, but what if the consequences were more severe? Sure, this constant media intrusion could push Earl to quit rapping and that would be a terrible loss of potential in the Rap game. But what if instead of quitting, this media malpractice pushed him to the bottle and drugs like Amy Winehouse or even a shotgun like Kurt Cobain?
On a smaller scale, it’s the same kind of information-driven OCD that makes people sign off of Facebook only to almost simultaneously check the Facebook app on their phones. Many of us now have an endless need to be in the know.
But in more serious cases, it’s the kind of obsessive behavior that caused fans like Michael Abram to break into George Harrison’s house and stab him in ’99, caused Mark Chapman to shoot John Lennon in Manhattan in ’80 or Nathan Gale to shoot “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott in that Columbus nightclub in ’04.
We have an opportunity to change this "gotta know now!" behavior with Captain Murphy. Here’s my proposal — every copy of Captain Murphy’s first album should include a prescription for Xanax and Prozac (maybe even a spliff or two for our friends out in Colorado). Maybe that would allow everyone to enjoy the music without having a mental breakdown about who is making it.
In the end, if Murphy doesn’t want us to know his identity, then we don’t need to know his identity. So unless the Captain is 2Pac revitalizing his career under this new alias, let’s all just keep calm and enjoy the mystery. While it lasts.
UPDATE: Aaaaand that didn't last too long. No more mysteries! Captain Murphy was revealed to be Flying Lotus (details here).
Rise Against is the epitome of Punk Rock in this era. They are as far from the status quo from society as bands get, yet record for a major label. Part of the group's mission is to promote progressive issues, both socially and politically. Rise Against recently released its sixth album, Endgame, which features the hit single “Make It Stop” (the video for which was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award last year).
CityBeat spoke with bassist and original member Joe Prinicipe in anticipation for their upcoming show in Cincinnati. They discussed the bands writing process and how they incorporated their socially active direction in their music. Rise Against will be opening Riverbend's PNC Pavilion for the summer this Saturday. A Day to Remember and Title Fight also perform.
CityBeat: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you are one of the original band members. You guys have been out on it for about 13 years from when you started. Where do you see yourself in 13 more years?
Joe Prinicipe: It’s hard to say with this business but I would say definitely still involved with writing music and performing. Rise Against has no intentions of breaking up. We would like to follow the same career paths as bands like Bad Religion and Social D that are going on 25 or 30 years and are still making relevant music. I hope that’s where I end up.
CB: I saw you last year with the Foo Fighters when you opened up in Columbus. I was wondering if there were any fun and crazy Foo Fighter stories on tour.
JP: It was pretty awesome when there were a group of protesters, I think we were in St. Louis, maybe it was Kansas City, and they were protesting the Foo Fighter show because they did that funny promo video where they were showering together. So this group came out, this very homophobic religious group. They were protesting and the Foo Fighters came out (before the show) dressed provocatively and they were out on a flat bed truck and performed and tried to play as loud as they could to overshadow, overpower the protestors. It totally worked and it was awesome.
CB: They seem fun to be around in general and don’t take it too seriously.
JP: Totally and they are all about enjoying what they have because being on the road and being away from your family is hard enough so you might as well make the most of it.
CB: Your music has been called protest music in the past by the Chicago Tribune and I just wanted to ask about your process to write lyrics around a cause. How do you choose a cause to support and then develop a song around it?
JP: (Singer/guitarist) Tim (McIlrath) writes all the lyrics and the process is very simple. He is just writing what he feels for that day. He writes from a personal perspective on life in general. That’s why our records are not just political, there are socially aware topics, there are environmental issues, there are songs about relationships and how hard it is to be away from our families when we are traveling. We always write music first and he will hear the tone that the music sets and he has a journal, and he will flip through the journal and see if something fits and if not he will write what he thinks will fit the music and that is how it has always been the last 12 years.
CB: Were you guys influenced at an early age or did something happen to you that kind of made you take your music toward this activism tone or did you have a kind of defining moment?
JP: No, it’s just seeing punk rock music. It’s just the nature of punk rock that seems formed as a reaction to the glam era of the 70’s. It’s just a reaction to that so it’s always been about that. It’s all we know. It was something that we didn’t even discuss. It was just kind of a given the direction of Rise Against was going to be that and we are kind of carrying that torch. Bands like Minor Threat and the Bad Brains were definitely singing for change whether it was singing against homophobia or social issues, but that’s kind of what the unspoken goal that the band has always had.
CB: What is the biggest way your music has been able to make a difference or make a change?
JP: I would say the effect that “Make it Stop” has had on young kids. Kids in high school trying to get through it all. We have gotten so many e-mails that the song is helping them through the hardest time of their life and that is incredibly rewarding. I would say “Make it Stop” stands out as that.
CB: Your new album came out last year in the spring. Do you have any new music in the works?
JP: No, we still have a whole year of touring on Endgame. I think I always have song ideas in the back of my head and so does Tim. It’s kind of an ongoing thing anyway. We won’t actually have anything, officially new until the end of 2013.
CB: Do you have any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past or any fond memories?
JP: Not really. Cincinnati is Bogart's, right?
CB: It’s Bogart's and this time you are at Riverbend which is outside.
JP: That’s right. The only thing I recall is from Zach our guitar player. His old band played Bogart's and someone was shot like 20 feet away from him. That’s really it.
CB: I think you are in a little safer place by the river this time. I have this new game and it’s a table game with quirky questions and people just give their first thoughts around it, so I have been experimenting with this a little and I have three questions from this game for you. The first question is what skill do you possess that most people don’t know about?
JP: Let’s see, nothing hidden, although I am a complete coffee snob and I have an espresso machine at my house and I take that very seriously. It has to be perfect. I have to time all my espresso shots as they come out of the machine. So I guess that.
CB: So you make the perfect espresso, that’s your hidden talent.
CB: What is under your bed?
JP: Actually nothing because my wife is a neat freak so nothing can be on the floor.
CB: If you are on the bus it is somebody else sleeping under the bed in the bunk.
JP: As far as the bus goes, our tour manager is usually in the bunk below me so I have him snoring …
CB: What song would you pick to sing karaoke?
JP: I’m really bad at karaoke, oddly enough.
CB: You don’t have to be good. I don’t think that’s the purpose of karaoke.
JP: That’s true. I don’t know maybe something from ’80s Pop like the Go-Gos or Duran Duran.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show in Cincinnati?
JP: Just high energy, just come and sing with us and have a good time. It is all about interacting with our fans and just everyone singing along. We are all there for the same reason. It is a good way to let off some steam from the week prior. Just come out and have a good time.
In September of last year, The Baseball Project — an all-star band featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) and Wynn’s wife, drummer Linda Pitmon — publicly debuted its song “Pete Rose Way” in Greater Cincinnati when it performed at the Southgate House. The band (which, as the name suggests, explores America’s national pastime in its lyrics) had recorded the song a week before the Southgate show and it will finally be released a part of the Volume 2: High and Inside album, scheduled for a March 1 release. But you can hear "Pete Rose Way" right now by clicking the play button below.
Mesmerizing local singer/songwriter Kim Taylor – who performed recently at the CMJ Music Festival in New York City — has a new five-song EP called The Greatest Story …, which is available now for about four bucks if you download it on her Web site. (In fact, all of Kim’s music is only available digitally as of now; CDs are only being sold at shows, while a vinyl version of her I Feel Like a Fading Light is due out in December.) The set will hit the iTunes store in the near future.
We caught up with Shannon Larkin Sunday afternoon before the show on the bus to talk about football and about his musical influences. When I arrived I waited in their outdoor football viewing area where a TV comes out of the side of the bus and is setup for group viewing. You can tell members of these three bands are die hard football fans.
I had already done my research to know that Shannon loves the Oakland Raiders and has pretty strong feelings about them bringing down the San Diego Chargers last week for the first time in many years.
CB: Do you feel like your Oakland Raiders are doing better than they should be? (Laughing)
Shannon: No. No I don’t. I feel like they are doing a lot worse than they should be. My Raiders story goes back to growing up. I was raised in Virginia area and my dad is a Notre Dame guy. He went to Notre Dame so I grew up watching ND football ever Saturday. Tim Brown, who was a number one draft pick and Heisman winner, went to play for the Raiders in 1987 or 1988. After that I always liked the Raiders. I also went to Redskins games at RFK growing up in Virginia, so the Raiders were my AFC team and I always loved the Skins. The last few years the Redskins have been terrible and they had Jason Campbell as their quarterback and then he got traded to Oakland and I didn’t understand why.
CB: Now he is the starter right?
Shannon: Yes because Gradkowski got hurt. Al Davis has been very influencial with things he has done for the NFL. He has done some great things, but he is so old now like 88, he needs to let the team go and get some younger people. Let them win again.
CB: Well, San Diego is losing today so you should be happy.
Shannon: Last week was so amazing. Every year, I watch the Raiders lose those two games against San Diego and last week Sully and I were jumping up and down when Oakland won for the first time in a long time.
CB: Well, we are here in Bengals country, do you have any favorite Bengals?
Shannon: They are exciting this year with T.O. and Chad. Terrell Owens is still making amazing plays and touchdowns every game and is fun to watch. Carson Palmer is a great quarterback and hopefully he can prove himself in the big games.
CB: Well maybe the Raiders and Bengals will see each other in the playoffs.
Shannon: I can only hope.
CB: In music, you have played with legendary bands
like Stone Sour, Black Sabbath, Candlebox, and others, but I read that
you love to play funk music. We have the Bootsy Collins connection here
in Cincinnati. Have you ever met Bootsy?
Shannon: I have never met Bootsy. It is funny last night we played Detroit and after the show there were fans waiting outside on the street and I always try to go out and sign autographs and take pictures with the fans. There was this older gray-haired black guy who came up to me and said he was in the P-Funk Allstars with George Clinton. He came up and said hi and that he liked the show. I love funk so that was interesting.
We were a family where the TV was mainly used for Saturday Notre Dame games. After dinner, we would go downstairs and my parents would play records for my sister and I like the Beatles and Creedence. One of the main records was Sly and the Family Stone Greatest Hits.
CB: So you have always had it around.
Shannon: Yes, Sly and the Family Stone is the shit to me. It just has such a positive message in every song where all the musicians can shine. In my later years, I got into Zeppelin, RUSH, Slayer, Metallica of course. I am giving away my age. In 1984, it became Black Flag and punk bands. Everything kind of circles around. Now I am forty-something I am going back to my roots with 60’s and 70’s rock.
CB: What are you listening to right now?
Shannon: My latest downloads have been “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, which is another record my parents used to play and Paul McCartney’s “Wings.” People won’t believe it reading this.
CB: Have you met Paul?
Shannon: Oh my god no. I wouldn’t even know what to say. After a long hard battle with myself after someone asked me who my top 5 bands were, I ended up picking Ramones, Beatles, Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Sly and the Family Stone. Those are my influences and I wear them on my sleeve.
CB: Is there anyone that you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t worked with yet.
Shannon: I’d love to work with George Clinton someday since he invented the word funk. Funk to me becomes about being in a room with friends to just jam with and you just make music and there is no pressure to make a record. You just get stoned and have a shot of tequila and just jam for three hours. It always becomes a funk riff that you can loop over and over where everyone can take their little part to shine. I would love someday to create some funk-pop music like Sly and Family Stone. Sly is like a freak that disappeared off the face of the earth so I know I will never get to play with him. George is still out there though with his crack pipe so there is a chance maybe I will be able to play with him.
CB: You just played Sturgis this summer. Did you have fun? Any crazy stories?
Shannon: It was horrible for us.
CB: Really? I thought you always enjoyed it.
Shannon: Well we are usually on tour when we play there and this time we weren’t so we didn’t have our bikes. It sucked. There were 500,000 people and bikes and we didn’t have ours. The show was fun but it was like putting a kid in the candy store and telling him he can’t have any and he has to watch all the other kids eat the candy.
CB: What kind of bikes do you have?
Shannon: I have a 07 Heritage Softtail that is my reliable bike. I have a 77 Shovelhead that is my bar hopper bike. In fact my 77 Shovelhead is from a guy here in Cincinnati, Jeff Cochran with Speed King Customs. I ordered it from him here when I found out we would be working on the Oracle album in LA for four months. I knew I would need a bike in LA so I called him after I had seen him when I played here. He brought a whole bunch of bikes out and I fell in love with a red one with a suicide shifter. He came across the 77 and thought it would fit me better so he sent it out to me and I love it.
CB: You guys have the new Oracle album which came out in the spring. What is your favorite song to play on the new album?
Shannon: “Oracle.” It is a 7.5 minute instrumental. At shows like Rock on the Range, when the album first came out we weren’t ready to tour so we would fly in for radio festival shows. It ended up being like a “best of” with two or three songs off the new record where as this is “The Oracle Tour.” It is Oracle heavy and we play 5 or 6 songs off the new record which makes it far more interesting to us to play new stuff that we haven’t played live before.
CB: The “Love-Hate-Sex-Pain” song is all over the radio right now.
Shannon: That is so great to hear and what we did for all the songs in the show tonight is strip down the videos and make all new videos to go with each song. We hired a video guy from Motley Crue and dug through years of video tape trying to find stuff that would look cool on the big screens. Everything is brand new visually even if you don’t know all the new songs yet.
CB: So are we going to see any pyro tonight?
Shannon: We actually have a laser show this time. Laser technology has kind of taken over the past few years and it is sick visually. You can get any can get any color lasers now and it actually takes two guys to run the lasers. It is actually cool from my vantage point as well to see the lasers over the crowd.
CB: I know you have a family now. Do they ever come out on the road with you?
Shannon: No they don’t really, but we did start this tour in Florida so my wife and kid got to come out and experience the first two shows. They love it. My daughter is 12 now so she is at an age where she can appreciate it and have fun.
CB: Do you ever worry about exposing her to it?
Shannon: No, we are all in our 40’s and we don’t do any of that crazy shit anymore. We did it all in previous bands before we joined Godsmack. I was 36 when I joined the band and was already married and had my daughter. The only thing I worry about is the language. You know we are a rock band and so when she comes backstage she’ll see people smoking and doing shots. We also did this one DVD called “Changes” and on the DVD I was late to sound check and Sully keeps yelling “Shannon Fucking Larkin” over and over. Now when fans see me and I am walking with my twelve year old people yell out, “Shannon Fucking Larkin” so she is exposed to that sometimes and I want to put ear muffs on her. As far and the drugs and girls though we are way over that.
CB: I have spoken to a lot of drummers this year
and some of them like Ray from KORN talk about playing drums all the
time everyday even when they are not touring. When you are not touring,
do you play all the time or do you take a break?
Shannon: I play all the time. When I am home, I go in my garage and put on my Ipod and play along with every song on random shuffle. One minute it is the Stones and the next it is Slayer. It is a fun way to practice. Usually when the band is together without Sully, we just jam and play funk and other sounds as well. The other band members live in New Hampshire and I live in Florida so I don’t really have anyone to play with so I jam to the Ipod.
CB: Does your daughter do any music?
Shannon: Yes she plays the trumpet in the school band which is cool. Maybe a funk duo is in the future who knows?
CB: What is up next for the band? I know the record is still pretty new, but are you working on new music?
Shannon: No new music right now. We actually write by ourselves. Everyone has a little recorder that we use. Tony is actually back there playing guitar right now. He plays all day and when he gets a riff he likes, he will record it. By the time we start to write songs, we all have like 20 riffs as a starting point. We use those to write songs and a chorus. Right now we are just all focused on this tour. It is a pretty big production. Even though the set list is the same, the production changes and is ever evolving. Last night Sully came on the bus and we came up with a new ending to the set. We also just came up with a video for “The Enemy.” It is changing as we go, as we see parts that are weak, we make changes. Our video guys says he goes to sleep dreaming about edits.
One of the most notable music venues in the region, Newport's historic Southgate House, has announced it will close its doors for good after a Dec. 31 show headlined by locally-based/internationally-acclaimed Punk band The Dopamines. A press release sent out Monday night (and a posting on the club's web site) announced that "after more than thirty years in continuous operation as a music and arts venue," the Southgate House will be shut down, though no reason was given.
Details on future plans were also vague; the release says owner Ross Raleigh is hoping to "relocate" the venue in 2012 and that more information would be available soon. The full press release — and an update — are below.