Music: Almost Frozen

Icebound escapades with local faves, The Fairmount Girls

Ericka McIntyre


The Fairmount Girls' ever-evolving lineup currently features (L-R) Erin Proctor, Mark Zero, Dana Hamblen and Melissa Fairmount.



I have a Joker card in my hand. On the face of it, Dana Hamblen has written "Melissa Fairmount" and a phone number.

She has invited me to travel with her band to Columbus for a show. So at 3 p.m. on Saturday, I call the number, and my 24-hour journey begins with Cincinnati's Fairmount Girls (Hamblen, vocals/drums; Fairmount, vocals/keyboard; Mark Zero, guitar; Erin Proctor, bass).

Fairmount gives me directions to her house in — where else — "Sunny South Fairmount." This day, while sunny, is far from warm (20 degrees) when I arrive at 4:30 p.m. Fairmount is hanging out with her dog, Zappa, watching a Led Zeppelin DVD. When "Whole Lotta Love" comes on, she says, "That's the bass line of the fuckin' world." Looking around her house you can see she lives and breathes music — CDs, records, music festival posters and Fairmount Girls memorabilia are everywhere.

A half-hour later Fairmount warms up the band's van, and we brave the icy streets to head to the practice space to load up.

Hamblen, Proctor and Zero join us. Loading up in nice weather is a chore, but in below-freezing temperatures (and platform shoes) it is downright treacherous. Little did I know this was the warmest I'd be for a while: The van's heater breaks as soon as we set off.

By 7:30 p.m., we're at Columbus' Workbook Studio, where the band's been invited to play a fund-raiser show for Ladyfest Ohio (ladyfestohio.org), an annual arts and music festival to promote women in the arts. This year's Fest happens May 28-31. The organizers hope to have the Fairmount Girls back, along with national acts and more Ohio bands.

Not a typical Rock club, Workbook is a recording studio that stages benefit and tribute shows a few times a year. There's a BYOB policy. It's a great space with a small stage and booths set up with artists and Planned Parenthood volunteers, who have brought 500 multi-colored condoms for the event. Alternative newsweekly Columbus Alive is promoting voter registration. The vibe is very "girl power."

Now we wait for midnight, when the Fairmounts are to play. I sit with Proctor and try to thaw my toes. Back in journalist mode, I ask her why she travels through the freezing dark to lug a huge upright bass around, play for no money and sleep on somebody's floor.

"You're the enemy," she jokes, alluding to the film Almost Famous.

Then she says, "Because I love what we're doing musically. If we can travel to other cities and get people to hear us and like us, it's worth it."

Four other Columbus acts are playing this night: The Alwood Sisters (who Fairmount likens to "a combination of The Indigo Girls and The Roches"), Di Di Mao (very attractive three-girl, one-guy Rock), Estee Louder (one-guy, three-tomboy Garage Rock) and Indie Rock vet Marcy Mays (of Scrawl). The latter will play sitting down, having had knee surgery three days before.

Hamblen and Fairmount are excited about sharing a stage with "the legendary" Mays. "Several years ago I went to Sudsy's with some friends to see this band called Scrawl," Fairmount tells me. "It changed my life. I thought, 'Yeah, I could do this all the time.' "

It's time for the Girls to go on. They play a tight set to a packed room. They are by far the most interesting act of the evening.

Their theme-dressing (this time it's "Japanese tourist") catches the crowd's eye, as does Proctor when she picks up her upright bass three songs into the set. Flashbulbs start popping everywhere. The photography stops when Proctor solos the last bars of "Trying to Fall" — the crowd is mesmerized by the lush, beautiful sound.

It occurs to me exactly why the Girls keep doing this, year after year. The magic that happens on the stage when they play together, the people they get to meet, the places they get to go — it's worth being cold, tired, broke and hungry.

Around 2 a.m. we head to the house of Christian Hurd of Columbus band Templeton, who is putting us up for the night. Meeting amazing people like Hurd, Fairmount tells me, is one more great thing about doing music.

Sunday morning, we prepare to trek home. Fairmount discovers that a key on her Farfisa is broken. This is bad news, as the Girls have a show Thursday and the "Organ Doctor," as she calls him, charges $200 for house calls.

At the gas station, Fairmount beams as she chats about her band with a fellow traveler who has picked up on the Rock vibe she gives off. We ride the rest of the way home listening to oldies and smiling.

It is 3 p.m. on Sunday. I am in my warm apartment with my souvenirs: a red Planned Parenthood condom and a Joker card with "Melissa Fairmount" and a phone number written on it. And I'm ready to call that number and do it all over again.



THE FAIRMOUNT GIRLS (

Ericka McIntyre


The Fairmount Girls' ever-evolving lineup currently features (L-R) Erin Proctor, Mark Zero, Dana Hamblen and Melissa Fairmount.



I have a Joker card in my hand. On the face of it, Dana Hamblen has written "Melissa Fairmount" and a phone number.

She has invited me to travel with her band to Columbus for a show. So at 3 p.m. on Saturday, I call the number, and my 24-hour journey begins with Cincinnati's Fairmount Girls (Hamblen, vocals/drums; Fairmount, vocals/keyboard; Mark Zero, guitar; Erin Proctor, bass).

Fairmount gives me directions to her house in — where else — "Sunny South Fairmount." This day, while sunny, is far from warm (20 degrees) when I arrive at 4:30 p.m. Fairmount is hanging out with her dog, Zappa, watching a Led Zeppelin DVD. When "Whole Lotta Love" comes on, she says, "That's the bass line of the fuckin' world." Looking around her house you can see she lives and breathes music — CDs, records, music festival posters and Fairmount Girls memorabilia are everywhere.

A half-hour later Fairmount warms up the band's van, and we brave the icy streets to head to the practice space to load up.

Hamblen, Proctor and Zero join us. Loading up in nice weather is a chore, but in below-freezing temperatures (and platform shoes) it is downright treacherous. Little did I know this was the warmest I'd be for a while: The van's heater breaks as soon as we set off.

By 7:30 p.m., we're at Columbus' Workbook Studio, where the band's been invited to play a fund-raiser show for Ladyfest Ohio (ladyfestohio.org), an annual arts and music festival to promote women in the arts. This year's Fest happens May 28-31. The organizers hope to have the Fairmount Girls back, along with national acts and more Ohio bands.

Not a typical Rock club, Workbook is a recording studio that stages benefit and tribute shows a few times a year. There's a BYOB policy. It's a great space with a small stage and booths set up with artists and Planned Parenthood volunteers, who have brought 500 multi-colored condoms for the event. Alternative newsweekly Columbus Alive is promoting voter registration. The vibe is very "girl power."

Now we wait for midnight, when the Fairmounts are to play. I sit with Proctor and try to thaw my toes. Back in journalist mode, I ask her why she travels through the freezing dark to lug a huge upright bass around, play for no money and sleep on somebody's floor.

"You're the enemy," she jokes, alluding to the film Almost Famous.

Then she says, "Because I love what we're doing musically. If we can travel to other cities and get people to hear us and like us, it's worth it."

Four other Columbus acts are playing this night: The Alwood Sisters (who Fairmount likens to "a combination of The Indigo Girls and The Roches"), Di Di Mao (very attractive three-girl, one-guy Rock), Estee Louder (one-guy, three-tomboy Garage Rock) and Indie Rock vet Marcy Mays (of Scrawl). The latter will play sitting down, having had knee surgery three days before.

Hamblen and Fairmount are excited about sharing a stage with "the legendary" Mays. "Several years ago I went to Sudsy's with some friends to see this band called Scrawl," Fairmount tells me. "It changed my life. I thought, 'Yeah, I could do this all the time.' "

It's time for the Girls to go on. They play a tight set to a packed room. They are by far the most interesting act of the evening.

Their theme-dressing (this time it's "Japanese tourist") catches the crowd's eye, as does Proctor when she picks up her upright bass three songs into the set. Flashbulbs start popping everywhere. The photography stops when Proctor solos the last bars of "Trying to Fall" — the crowd is mesmerized by the lush, beautiful sound.

It occurs to me exactly why the Girls keep doing this, year after year. The magic that happens on the stage when they play together, the people they get to meet, the places they get to go — it's worth being cold, tired, broke and hungry.

Around 2 a.m. we head to the house of Christian Hurd of Columbus band Templeton, who is putting us up for the night. Meeting amazing people like Hurd, Fairmount tells me, is one more great thing about doing music.

Sunday morning, we prepare to trek home. Fairmount discovers that a key on her Farfisa is broken. This is bad news, as the Girls have a show Thursday and the "Organ Doctor," as she calls him, charges $200 for house calls.

At the gas station, Fairmount beams as she chats about her band with a fellow traveler who has picked up on the Rock vibe she gives off. We ride the rest of the way home listening to oldies and smiling.

It is 3 p.m. on Sunday. I am in my warm apartment with my souvenirs: a red Planned Parenthood condom and a Joker card with "Melissa Fairmount" and a phone number written on it. And I'm ready to call that number and do it all over again.



THE FAIRMOUNT GIRLS (fairmountgirls.com) play Thursday at The Comet with The Cathedrals.

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