Cover Story: Desdemona Festival

Schedule

 
Scott Schafer


GHOSTFACE KILLAH



Event and Ticket Info here

FRIDAY

· STAGE 1 (P&G Pavilion) ·
4 p.m.

(IN)CAMERA

Featuring members of lauded Cincinnati music faves like The Wolverton Brothers, Roundhead and Blanco Nombre, (in)camera flaunts a shimmying, shimmering Electro Rock vibe, with dance-y Post Punk rhythms, layered keyboards, airy-to-dirty guitars and perfect, dreamy melodies and harmonies. The group's debut EP (a full-length is in the works) has been championed by locally-based tastemakers

 
Scott Schafer


GHOSTFACE KILLAH



Event and Ticket Info here

FRIDAY

· STAGE 1 (P&G Pavilion) ·
4 p.m.

(IN)CAMERA

Featuring members of lauded Cincinnati music faves like The Wolverton Brothers, Roundhead and Blanco Nombre, (in)camera flaunts a shimmying, shimmering Electro Rock vibe, with dance-y Post Punk rhythms, layered keyboards, airy-to-dirty guitars and perfect, dreamy melodies and harmonies. The group's debut EP (a full-length is in the works) has been championed by locally-based tastemakers woxy.com.

6 p.m.

MARGOT AND THE NUCLEAR SO & SO'S

Singer/songwriter Richard Edwards formed this eight-piece collective in 2004, recorded their debut album soon after and quickly took their bo-ho, electric/acoustic circus on the road. Natural and impulsive, melodic and michieviously creative, the So & So's have been dubbed "Sex Folk" and "Chamber Pop," and their expansive sound is not too far away from The Arcade Fire's (though with a bit more Rock bite). The band's debut was remastered and released on Artemis earlier this year.

8 p.m.

THE APPLES IN STEREO

If you were writing a book about the lo-fi, Indie Pop explosion of the '90s and you didn't dedicate a chapter to The Apples in Stereo ... well, there goes your Pulitzer, Hemingway. Key members of the mythical Elephant 6 recording collaborative, The Apples' music explodes with melodies as bright as the sun and an aura akin to '60 Pop masters like The Zombies and The Beach Boys. This year has seen a full Apples resurgence, with the band opening spring dates on The Strokes' tour and completing their fifth LP, New Magnetic Wonder, due early next year.

10 p.m.

GHOSTFACE KILLAH

While other members of legendary Hip Hop crew the Wu-Tang Clan have been busy making deodorant commercials, soundtracking Indie films and, sadly, dying, Ghostface Killah has kept his head firmly in the Hip Hop game, building what is arguably the strongest solo discography of the whole squad. With his latest, Fishscale, he's raised the bar yet again, delivering a visceral, harrowing portrayal of cocaine hustling that is cautionary without being preachy.

Backed by slit-throat-sharp production and beats, Killah's barrage of engaging, clever wordplay is so dizzying you'll get a contact-high just listening.

· STAGE 2 (Arches) ·
5 p.m.

MARVIN AND THE EXPERIENCE

Led by Cincinnati singer/songwriter Marvin Hawkins, the Experience pump out sensual, organic Neo-Soul with a Hip Hop heart. If Prince, Raphael Saadiq and Slum Village got together for a late-night, seductive jam session, it might sound something like Hawkins' sex-dripping grinds. His versatile musical skills have landed him work with musicians of every stripe and he has seen the world on various tours over the years. But with his Experience, Hawkins' star-worthy light shines brightest.

7 p.m.

NORTHERN STATE

Three young white kids, partying in New York and bonding over their love of old-school Rap music, decide to start a Hip Hop group on a whim; write and record playful demo; get a major record deal; travel the world. If you're picturing the Beastie Boys, cut their dicks off, update the sound and change their name to Northern State and your picture is more focused. The trio ­ who approach Rap like The Slits tackled Reggae — has drawn fawning reviews and opened for The Roots, De La Soul, Le Tigre and Cake. Their Columbia Records debut, All City, featured guests like Muggs and Pete Rock, while Beastie Ad Rock is lending some production help on their forthcoming third long-player.

9 p.m. VHS OR BETA (DJ SET)

Ever wondered what records are in the collection of the finest Dance Rock band ever to come out of Kentucky? Here's your chance to find out, as members of VHS Or Beta spin for DesFest goers. They've managed some pretty sweet DJ gigs between their band tour dates, playing the Guggenheim alongside Interpol's Carlos D. in March and a big pre-Bonnaroo party in Nashville earlier this month. Just please, oh please, let them forget to bring the "Electric Slide" song.

· STAGE 3 (Schott Amphitheater) ·
5 p.m.

THE HIGH AND LOW

One of the more buzzed-about new bands on the Cincinnati music scene, The High and Low are like a mix of The Velvet Underground and Cat Power, mixing gauzy, sky-bound vocals with a primitive, gut-bucket stomp. (See interview, page 29.)

7 p.m.

THE TURNBULL ACS

Formed around the smart, moody story-songs of frontman Dan Mecher, The Turnbull ACs are one of the top new bands in Cincinnati. The Turnbulls' sound is sublime, guitar-based Pop music stripped of Pop's more annoying characteristics (expected melodies, shallow, meaningless lyrics). Make Elvis Costello 20something again, team him with Phantom Planet, sprinkle in some Strokes-ian scruff and rootsy, Bright Eyes-like rollicking and you'll have a genetic-engineering nightmare but a damn fine Rock & Roll record, just like The Turnbulls' recently-released, self-titled debut.

9 p.m.

THE SUNDRESSES

Given their progressive politics, Cincinnati is probably the last place you'd expect bluesy, volatile Indie Rock threesome The Sundresses to hail from. But Cincinnati's arch conservatism creates the perfect Petri dish for the Dresses' punchy, soulfully riotous sound and approach, which takes the history of American music and submits it to Gitmo-style torture sessions until it gives them what they need. Formed in 2002, the sardonic trio are already South By Southwest veterans and they've toured steadily throughout the region. The follow-up to their strong debut, The Only Tourist In Town, is currently in the works.

· AFTERPARTY AT ALCHEMIZE ·
SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME, ABERDEEN CITY, WIL-O-EE

Saturday

· STAGE 1 ·
4 p.m.

CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY

The good Captain is a Dayton band, but Cincinnati has taken them in as one of their own. You know they've arrived in Cincinnati when there's "backlash" (daily rag The Enquirer compared them to Styx ... ouch!). Get a good seat, though, and you'll realize that the Captain is all their fervent fans make them out to be — imaginative Power Pop with a carnival-like swirl of creative guitar, rhythms and keys, New Wave quirkiness and an undeniable melodic uppercut. The band's sophomore effort, The Great Divide, was released in 2005.

6 p.m.

MATES OF STATE

With their exuberant Pop and dance-demanding live shows, the husband/wife team of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel make a big ball of colorful noise as Mates of State with just vocals, organ and drums. The tag-team formed in Lawrence, Kan., in '97, releasing albums on Polyvinyl and several singles and EPs elsewhere. But their debut for Barsuk, Bring It Back, has brought them their biggest audience yet, drawing rave reviews from any press outlet that took the time to listen.

8 p.m.

STELLASTARR*

Barry Bonds might be worried that his name will be followed by an asterisk in the record books someday, but this New York quartet isn't waiting — they just put it in their name. It's a "look at me" move that befits the melodramatic, slanted Dance Rock crew, who recall the '80s more than most of their "New New Wave" peers, with sweeping, theatrical melodies that Simon LeBon would give his old frilly pirate shirt up for. The band's latest release, Harmonies for the Haunted, was released late last year on RCA Records.

10 p.m.

ANNIE

A bonafide Norwegian Pop sensation (and not "Pop" like Mates of State but "Pop" like Kylie Minogue), singer Annie is probably the most unusual booking for Desdemona. She makes bubblegum Dance music for those nostalgic for when Madonna didn't have a British accent or bulging biceps, and hipsters apparently adore her for it. Annie has found love from Electro fans that dig the pumping bleeps of Röyksopp (with whom she has worked) and Goldfrapp, seeing her as a sort of anti-Britney. DFA, LCD Soundsystem and Scissor Sisters have also sung her praises.

· STAGE 2 ·
5 p.m.

APOLLO UP!

With progressive arrangements and Post Punk propulsion, Nashville's Apollo Up! make jittery, serrated-edged Pop music for the "end-of-times" generation. Singer/guitarist Jay Leo Phillips — who also plays with fellow Nashvillians Forget Cassettes (see below) — uncoils barbed-wire guitar lashes while the rhythm section of Mike Shepherd (bass) and Jereme Frey (drums) never misses a frenetic beat. Mix in some Costlello-on-trucker-speed vocals and you've got a recipe for intense, magnetic Rock & Roll that'll leave skid marks. They should erupt live.

7 p.m.

FORGET CASSETTES

Back before Modern Rock radio station WOXY went online-only, they proved their influence by turning Nashville then-duo Forget Cassettes into local Indie sensations. Simple regular airplay turned hordes of folks in the region into FC fanatics, who packed into every local show. It's easy to see why; repeated exposure to the band (now a trio) is habit-forming. Taking the tried-and-true loud/soft dynamic to new heights, the band's head honcho Beth Cameron and her mates create consuming waves of dichotomy — dissonance and ethereality, commanding bluster and fragile anxiety. The second FC album, Salt, is due in August.

8 p.m.

ENON

Often, when you hear a song on the radio or at a cool club, you know who it is immediately, even if you've never heard it before. When you hear a song by Enon that you're not familiar with, you're more likely to go, "That may be Enon." It's this shape-shifting ingenuity that makes the Brooklyn trio of sonic adventurers so appealing. Formed by former Dayton, Ohioan John Schmersal when his last band, Brainiac, ended, Enon is a Pop Art collage come to life, encompassing everything from fuzzy, esoteric Indie Rock to giddy, electro-fused Art Disco.

· STAGE 3 ·
5 p.m.

THE SPECTACULAR FANTASTIC

Mike Detmer, the founder of Cincinnati's The Spectacular Fantastic, writes amazing songs in the classic Pop/Rock vein, tempered with just a trace of Midwestern soul. Evolving from a home-recording outlet to a full-band entity over the past few years, The Spectacular Fantastic released the superb The Spectacular Fantastic Goes Underground in 2005. Oddly enough (given the album title), the release also served as a coming-out pronouncement for Detmer's new, steady, full-time band, the most powerful and energetic he's had yet.

7 p.m.

COUSIN

Usually when a band cites influences as disparate as Can, Booker T and the MGs, Steely Dan, Big Star, Todd Rundgren and The Sea and Cake, they're either just trying to be cool or they sound like a jumbled mess. New York-based Cousin's execution is remarkable given the whirl of genres they touch on but never totally inhabit. It's a freedom in sound not unlike what Cody ChesnuTT accomplished with his Headphone Masterpiece a few years ago, but this quartet pushes the edges a little further out (sometimes piercing speakers with a Garage Rock howl, other times slipping into a classic Soul pocket) and they keep the filler to a minimum.

9 p.m.

ACTRESS

Unless you had their bio right in front of you, you'd never peg impressive four-piece Actress as being from anywhere other than the U.K. And you'd have to be cheating to guess they're from Tennessee (Chattanooga, to be exact). The band's music has the stylized swagger of the BritPop biggies, sounding like a blend of Muse and Suede, with a little dance-floor verve bubbling underneath for good measure. So far it appears there's only one self-released Actress recording (Isolation). But, if they are not already signed, with a sound this accomplished and charismatic it should only be a matter of time before you find 'em at your favorite record store.

· AFTERPARTY AT ALCHEMIZE ·
THE DOUBLE, AU REVOIR SIMONE, DIET AUDIO

SUNDAY

· STAGE 1 ·
4 p.m.

HEARTLESS BASTARDS

If you live in Cincinnati and you don't know about the Heartless Bastards, send me the address of the rock you're living under and I'll mail you their fantastic debut for Fat Possum Records, Stairs and Elevators. The local-band-gone-national drew high praise from nearly every major media outlet in the country (and many abroad) with the release, a powerful and intimate slab of soulful, pure Rock & Roll. Besides landing on numerous "Best of '05" lists, they scored Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Rock act of the year honors at last year's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.

6 p.m.

THE STILLS

Canada snuck up on us in the past few years, becoming a musical hotbed that seethes creative, impacting Indie Rock. Montreal's The Stills are a guiding light, their high-ceilinged, majestic Post Punk ranking among the best of the new Canuck breed. The band is pulling double fest duty this weekend, also performing at Chicago's Intonation Festival, which their label, Vice Records, is curating. The band's new album, Without Feathers, is a little more organic and less classic-Post-Punk-influenced but no less stirring.

8 p.m.

THE FIERY FURNACES

Don't get too comfortable thinking you know what The Fiery Furnaces are all about based on one song or album. The eclectic, oddball Pop songs across the bro/sis duo's past several releases are totally unpredictable, often changing form within a few minutes of any given song. Fun fact: the Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger is the muse behind the finest song ("Eleanor Put Your Boots On") on Franz Ferdinand's latest album, You Could Have It So Much Better. Thanks, Eleanor! (See interview, page 26).

10 p.m.

THE WALKMEN

When you're watching The Walkmen on stage, as an experiment, try to isolate what the individual musicians are playing. The unique textures of the band's sound are the result of some very creative individual performances, which all appear to be on different wavelengths at times, despite the harmonious results. Managing to be both eerily ethereal and bleedingly raw (thanks largely to singer Hamilton Leithauser's throat-shredding vocals), the enthralling quintet recently released its third album, A Hundred Miles Off, shaking things up with even more adventurous arrangements and layering.

· STAGE 2 ·
5 p.m.

ROGUE WAVE

Bay Area foursome Rogue Wave makes elating, hook-laden Indie Folk Pop that is gorgeously bucolic, mesmerizing and moving, like hearing a Nick Drake song for the first time. The "group's" self-released debut, Out of the Shadow, was really the work of songwriter Zach Rogue. A copy of the recording landed in SubPop's hands and the label re-released the album in 2004. Descended Like Vultures, the band's forthcoming disc (set for an appropriate autumnal release this October), is previewed on the upcoming EP, 10:1, and is more of a "band" project than the debut.

7 p.m.

WE ARE SCIENTISTS

Bringing another rush of poppy, peppy Dance Rock, Brooklyn trio We Are Scientists mix wiry guitar slashes, punchy beats and soaring chorus hooks that burrow in your ears like diligent mites (don't worry, there's medicine for that now). The band began in California and moved to New York in 2001, building buzz and eventually landing a deal with Virgin Records, which put out their groovalicious With Love and Squalor earlier this year.

9 p.m.

RADIO 4

This Brit-sounding quintet from New York are named for a Public Image Limited song, and that's a fair reference point to start with when describing Radio 4's moody, artsy AltDisco sound, which features chicken-scratch guitar, bubbly Dub rhythms and blissfully cocksure vocals. The band has consistently worked with electronic artists, ensuring a more commanding grasp of the concept of danceability than some of their peers. The band's latest, Enemies Like This, was released on Astralwerks in May.

· STAGE 3 ·
5 p.m.

PAPER AIRPLANE

This solid Indie Pop four-piece is totally bi. Bi-city, that is. Paper Airplane splits members between Columbus and Cincinnati. The band was started a couple of years ago by singer/songwriter Ryan Horns, who was performing under the banner The Last Hotel and building a rep for his magnetic hyper-melodicism. That transfers to Paper Airplane, which should appease fans of Elephant 6-like classicism. Like The Shins, The Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson and The Kinks? Then make your DesFest reservations with Paper Airplane.

7 p.m.

SMALL SINS

Small Sins is the one-man-band guise of singer/songwriter Thomas D'Arcy, a Toronto resident who escaped an unsatisfying band situation to go it alone, producing intimate, vintage-synth-and-drum-machine-laden Indie Pop. Emotive, melodic and contemplative on record, D'Arcy promises a more "rockin" live show, featuring a full band. The self-titled Small Sins debut was recently released on Astralwerks.

9 p.m.

RICHARD SWIFT

The music of Richard Swift has been compared to some of the great, truly Pop songwriters of the past 40 years, including Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman and Burt Bacharach. He has a Tin Pan Alley-like charm that's also a little Vaudevillian bounce, but all these touchstones are just a taste of what lies inside Swift's two-disc Secretly Canadian debut, which combines the singer/songwriter's pair of self-made, self-released albums, Walking Without Effort and The

EVENT AND TICKET INFO
You are permitted to bring: three sealed, clear bottles of water; digital and disposable cameras; medium-sized backpacks (they will be checked); folding chairs; and blankets.

You are NOT permitted to bring: pets, professional recording devices, alcohol, food (beer and food vendors will be on-site), laser pointers, weapons, tents, flags, banners or anything that can obstruct views.

Stages: The main fest events take place at Sawyer Point (720 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown), east of Great American Ballpark and U.S. Bank Arena along the Ohio River. "Stage 1" is at the Procter & Gamble Performance Pavilion (the main amphitheater, with the large white awning, on the Great Lawn); "Stage 2" is located at the Arches Overlook (near the Cincinnatus statue); and "Stage 3" is at the Harold C. Schott Foundation Amphitheater across from the tennis courts.

Tickets: Three-day passes are $24; single day passes are $12. Single and three-day passes are available in advance at desdemonafestival.com. Tickets are also available at Everybody's Records (6106 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge; 513-531-4500) and Shake It Records (4156 Hamilton Ave., Northside; 513-591-0123). Tickets can also be purchased at the fest site (box office opens at noon each day).

Etc.: Gates open at 3 p.m. each day. Parking lots are located at and around the venue site. The event happens "rain or shine." You will receive ticket bracelets upon entry; Desdemona bracelets get you free entry into the after-parties at alchemize (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine; 513-381-2400). Doors for Friday and Saturday's alchemize shows open at 9 p.m. You must be 18 or older to attend the alchemize shows. All ages are permitted at DesFest. Children under 10 are admitted free.

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