Once upon a time, the Clifton area near the University of Cincinnati — much like the bustling music scenes centered around colleges across the country — was ground zero for original, creative music in Cincinnati. If you were a serious “local music fan” and you weren’t in Clifton (in the clubs on or near Short Vine or the independent record stores that thrived in the area) at least once or twice a week… well, your story of Cincinnati music in the ’80s/’90s is probably like telling the story of Jesus without mentioning his murder.
As CityBeat has been told repeatedly over the years by real-estate agents protecting investments in the area, what is generally known as “Clifton” is really three ’hoods: Corryville (encompassing clubs like The Mad Frog and whatever is in the old Sudsy Malone’s space these days, if anything); Clifton proper (the fancy-schmanzy Ludlow area, thus the Realtor outrage over calling Corryville or “less desirable” parts of town “Clifton”); and Clifton Heights, UC’s true “college neighborhood” along Calhoun/McMillan. While The Mad Frog still holds it down in Corryville, the area is a shadow of its once youthful, artsy self and Clifton (proper) is pretty much the same (bars, coffeehouses and restaurants but not a ton of music).
But Clifton Heights has been doing what college neighborhoods should, showcasing live music by young musicians at venues like Baba Budan’s and Mac’s Pizza Pub and fueled by artists looking for a sense of community. The neighborhood isn’t quite Short Vine-in-the-’90s level, but the return of the Clifton Heights Music Festival this weekend is another hopeful step in making the area more consistently thriving with music. Last year’s debut CHMF was held in October just after the MidPoint Music Festival, but now it is returning to usher in the spring this Friday and Saturday with a gigantic stellar and diverse lineup of local, original music, featuring everything from Jazz, Blues and Hip Hop to Indie/AltRock, Electronica, Dance music, Punk and Rock.
Friday night, Rohs Street Café’s offerings include Hip Hop from Mahogany Reign, CJ The Cynic and Bullying Ben Jones and Indie Pop from The Happy Maladies, while Baba Budan’s showcases Jazz (Wade Baker Jazz Collaboration), Punk (The Frankl Project) and Electro Rock (No No Knots; see C.A. MacConnell's interview with them here).
Uncle Woody’s will have live music by bands like Indie Surf rockers The Flux Capacitors (pictured) and DJ sets by Kyle Cannon, K-Frey and Tim Lachut. Mac’s Pizza Pub meshes Hip Hop, Rock and Jam Band exploration with artists like Eclipse, Perfect Norm and Losanti, while Christy’s Biergarden hosts Ska/Reggae instigators The Pinstripes, Punk/Pop from Loudmouth and Hip Hop by Constant Elevashun, Moxy Monster, MC Till and Skandal Da Ruckus Man, among others.
Murphy’s Pub (which actually hosted bands from Nirvana to The Afghan Whigs back in the Clifton music heyday of yesteryear) will have Rock, Indie and Blues from Matthew Shelton’s Picnic, Free Sophia, mallory, J Dorsey Blues Revival and Sparrow Bellows.
The barrage doesn’t slow down a bit Saturday. Rohs Street presents creative Jazz/R&B crew iolite, singer/songwriter Peter Adams and a Hip Hop set with Ill Poetic, djdq, Wonder Brown and others. Baba’s hosts Wade Johnston & The Navigators, The Marmalade Brigade and more.
The Uncle Woody’s lineup includes Indie rockers The Harlequins, Moneytrees River and the kitchen-sink mashers of Chick Pimp, Coke Dealer at a Bar, while Mac’s has Hip Hop and Funk from artists like Pharaoh Loosey and Lazy Ass Destroyer and Christy’s rocks with local faves like Noctaluca, Banderas and The Prohibitionists.
Murphy’s Pub presents the dynamic lineup of Defective Males, Wist, Buckra, Josh Eagle & The Harvest City and Lifelike.
Music starts at 9 p.m. both nights. “All-venue passes” are $8 each night or $12 for both nights (available at the participating venues). Friend the fest on Facebook and Twitter and follow along. Get details on each club here.
Yes, “Clifton” still has a music scene. Go to CHMF to witness and make it stronger. The UC area deserves it.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]