When the Southgate House in Newport closed at the end of last year, many music fans wondered if it would have any impact on the amount (and quality) of national touring acts coming to town in the future. There have been several encouraging signs that suggest area club owners and promoters not only have the power and drive to pick up any overflow, but Greater Cincinnati may well end up having more touring-artist-friendly options than ever.
Several outlets you’d expect have continued to book quality shows, but on Feb. 10, an unexpected, big-time venue entered the mix — or rather, increased its presence in it. Since remodeling and reopening last year, downtown’s Taft Theatre already was programming a more adventurous concert lineup than usual. This year, the venue has already announced shows by more “mid-level” groups like Trampled By Turtles and JJ Grey & Mofro, both cult faves and Southgate alumni.
Now, the Taft and Music & Events Management Inc. have announced the opening of a new stage at the old Theatre, which will enable the venue to bring in artists who have gotten too big for tiny clubs but might not draw enough to pack the big room yet.
The new performance space — called The Ballroom at the Taft — is located in the theater’s lower level. The press release calls the more intimate space “a showcase style club venue that will play host to a variety of live entertainment events spanning all types of styles and genres.”
The addition of the Ballroom gives the Taft and MEMI the versatility to do much more, hosting concerts in both the 500-capacity new space and the 20,500-capacity old one. (Though perhaps a coincidence, the “Ballroom” moniker suggests a subtle nod to the Southgate’s largest performance room; former Southgate manager Rick McCarty now works for MEMI/Taft.)
The first shows announced are promising indications that the Ballroom at the Taft is well aware of the void in the market created by the Southgate’s change in management. Performing first in the new room — on March 24 — are Baltimore rockers J Roddy Walston and The Business, frequent Cincy visitors with a solid local fan base. The band will be joined by Nashville Pop/Rock crew The Features and local Indie band Pop Empire. Modern Indie pioneers Low (with area twosome R. Ring) will play the Ballroom on April 18 and Canadian Indie Folk troupe Great Lake Swimmers are booked for June 23 (with Northern Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore opening).
Like the local openers mentioned, the venue’s most recent concert announcement further demonstrates that those in charge have a good sense of the local music community. Acclaimed Cincy Indie/Pop duo Bad Veins will host the release party for its anticipated sophomore full-length, The Mess We’ve Made, on April 21, three days before the rest of the world can buy the album. (The LP is Bad Veins’ debut for Modern Outsider Records and seems likely to launch the duo to the next level).
Tickets for all of the shows announced so far go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster and Taft ticketing outlets. Visit www.tafttheatre.org for more info.
• New Indie Pop/Rock trio The Future Strikes releases its catchy debut effort, a four-track, eponymous EP, this Friday at The Avenue in Covington. Fans of Nada Surf will adore the Strikes’ powerful yet sensitive style, which already feels like the product of a band that has been together for at least a decade. The Strikes are joined by Department Store Alligators and Vito Emmanuel for the free, 10 p.m. show. (www.facebook.com/thefuturestrikes)
• If you admire female artists and have a soft spot for the Electronic side of modern music, you’ll want to be at the Northside Tavern this Friday at 10 p.m. for the free “Electro Ladyland” event. The lineup consists of three women-powered acts that use electronic additives — dynamic “avanthiphopdubrocktronica” artist Abiyah, CEA-winning band Diet Audio and newcomers Playfully Yours, a trippy, glitch three-piece.
• Psychedelic Electro/Improv ensemble Pharaoh Loosey releases its debut album Saturday at The Mad Frog in Corryville. The all-instrumental full-length — called (h)wak formal — is available now for download; a limited run of high-end, glow-in-the-dark vinyl edition is also going to be available at the show. The 9 p.m. release shindig features support acts Shotski, Hellnaw and Benigma. Admission is $5. (www.pharaohloosey.com)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]