Cincinnati Is a Music Town

I enjoy Cincinnati. Yes, I worship at the chili/ ice cream/ Reds altar like a lot of you, but this city's malleability brings me the most enjoyment. See something missing? Reach in and create it.

I enjoy Cincinnati. Yes, I worship at the chili/ ice cream/ Reds altar like a lot of you, but this city's malleability brings me the most enjoyment.

See something missing? Reach in and create it.

It's not just me. I've watched many friends and peers open businesses, art galleries, theaters, restaurants, studios and festivals.

Cincinnati is a good place to live creatively.

Conversely, I have friends and peers who relocated to those bigger cities that seem to have everything going for them.

Yet those places remind me of Disney Worlds — so much has already been developed and laid out for you. Seems like a lot of people just end up waiting in line for the rides instead of inventing new ones.

The Cincinnati I enjoy has been fertile ground for musicians.

The ability to affect their surrounding suits them just fine.

And while most of us weren't listening, our local musicians have slowly been changing how this city is perceived by the nation. Cincinnati has become a music town.

That shouldn't sound strange to you. Cincinnati has always had a strong musical history, but our present day music output has lapped other traditionally-recognized music towns like Memphis or Seattle. Pick up a recent national music rag or dig into the lineups of this year's largest national music festivals, and you'll run across Cincinnati-made music.

Now comes a weird twist on that all-too-familiar quote by Mark Twain that goes something like "I want to be in Cincinnati when the world ends because things happen there three days or 10 years or 20 years later." (I'd like a count of how many times Twain's dig has been referenced in past issues of CityBeat.)

We often wield that phrase as an excuse to the rest of the world and to ourselves, but in this case Cincinnati is ahead of most cities our size when it comes to pioneering new music on the national stage. Where Twain's remark applies is in our lagging ability to recognize and harness something so positive as Cincinnati's growing national identity as a music town.

It's not hard to figure out why it's been slow for many of us to catch on. Good luck trying to define a "Cincinnati sound."

Our music-makers approach their craft from all angles without much outside influence. The product is consistently authentic, inventive, diverse and void of mainstream template-chasers.

And there's no central location for the curious to explore or for our political leaders to tout. You'll find our music-makers performing in locales as varied as the neighborhoods that make up Greater Cincinnati.

A recent Cincinnati Enquirer article profiling potential city leaders ("Council Candidates Sound Off on the Arts") is a good example of mainstream Cincinnati's lack of understanding of the impact local musicians are making on our region and our nation. Throughout the discussion of our arts and culture, local music wasn't mentioned once by the 25 city council candidates questioned.

In the article, Cincinnati's arts and culture were mentioned as a jewel by which we can market our city to visitors. I suggest that "Cincinnati as a Music Town" be the first front in marketing, the hope for downtown over more retail and the pride of our arts and culture discussion.

A friend of mine who recently served as a consultant on The Banks project paints this picture: Take a local music census that tallies the number of people participating in local music during any given week. Page through this CityBeat, and you'll find an abundance of destinations to visit for such a music census. Count heads, then stack that up against the butts in seats for the traditional cultural venues during the same time frame.

Good idea. Numbers talk, and I think a local music census would reveal a lot.

I invite you, music-maker and music-lover, to stand and be counted at the 11th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards Nov. 18 at the historic Taft Theatre downtown. The CEAs are Cincinnati's only annual local music celebration, and the event is built as your bully pulpit.

We've invited local leaders and media to the CEA party. Take this opportunity to demonstrate to them what the rest of our nation is already embracing.

Cincinnati is a music town. It can happen. Make it what you want. Numbers talk.

Wade in and get some more local music on you. Take ownership of your music town by discovering your favorite local band. Half the fun is the hunt, and our diverse music community offers something for everyone.

Music is Cincinnati's finest natural resource, greatest export and a damn good time. Whether showcased at the CEAs or in your neighborhood bar, the lines for the rides our musicians have built are relatively short and the park is open late.

DAN MCCABE is CityBeat's marketing and promotions manager and event producer for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and is a musician himself.

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