Tonight's free MidPoint Indie Summer concert on Fountain Square is a bit different than most of the shows in the series. Not only is the bill all-local, it also represents three of the finest "Pop Rock" entities to ever emerge from the Queen City.
Despite sharing a knack for writing incredibly memorable songs exploding with irrepressible hooks, each group has its own distinctive sound and draws from varying classic Pop/Rock influences from throughout time, from The Beatles to Todd Rundgren to The Buzzcocks.
The Tigerlilies kicks things off at 7 p.m. The quartet has had a remarkable run over the past 23 years, despite the occasional upheaval — the group's lead guitarist slot occasionally seemed to reach "Spinal Tap drummer" proportions, but the ’Lilies balance that out by having the remarkable ability to enlist some truly amazing players who each have brought something unique to the group.
Current six-slinger Brendan Bogosian is no exception; the guitarist's (formerly of local bands like Cash Flagg and The Woos) expressive, serpentine style of playing has weaved its way into (and added new wrinkles to the sound of) The Tigerlilies' deft brand of early Punk/Post Punk inspired Power Pop seamlessly. The band is currently working on its next album, which they hope to have out this fall.
Next up (at about 8:15 p.m.) is the Roger Klug Power Trio, fronted (go figure!) by singer/songwriter/guitarist Roger Klug and featuring the great rhythm section of Mike Tittel on drums and Jamie Criswell on bass.
Klug (former member of popular locals The Willies) has amassed an impressive discography since his mid-’90s solo debut, Mama Mama ich bin in dem La La Land, a garage-y display of Klug's clever, instinctive songcraft, and the highly addictive follow-up, Toxic and 15 Other Love Songs. Those albums help Klug build a following amongst Power Pop die-hards, and not just local ones. His records found a widespread cult following thanks to distribution from modern Power Pop juggernaut Not Lame Records and breathlessly positive press from pretty much any critic who took the time to listen to a song.
After the ambitious (and creatively successful) Where Has the Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings of Clem Comstock in 1999 — a concept album featuring alleged "lost recordings" in a variety of vintage Pop styles (and credited to various made-up artist names) — Klug seemingly disappeared, putting out no new Roger Klug material for a decade and popping up only occasionally for area live shows. But in 2010, Klug fans were treated to an all-new LP, More Help for Your Nerves, which (somewhat amazingly) features some of his best tunes yet.
Closing out the live-concert primer on Cincinnati's catchiest homegrown music from the past four decades is, fittingly, popular trio psychodots (starting around 9:30 p.m.). The ’Dots are genuine local music legends whose origins date back to the ’70s when a quartet of graduates from Toledo's Sylvania High School — Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger, Chris Arduser and Tom Toth — moved to Cincinnati and, with a few adjustments in the lineup over time, went on to become one of the Queen City's most beloved bands, the raisins.
Local sensations of epic proportions, the raisins built up a huge (and hugely loyal) fan base in the city's clubs and, with its self-titled LP, scored a regional hit with the unforgettable, somewhat "New Wave-ish" "Fear Is Never Boring." If CityBeat ever does "Best Cincinnati Songs of All-Time," "Fear" is a lock for the No. 1 slot. There will be no debate.
Following the raisins' split in the mid-’80s, Arduser rejoined Fetters and Nyswonger — as well as the producer of that debut LP, globally acclaimed Covington native Adrian Belew — in The Bears, which spread Cincinnati's best kept secret well beyond city limits with a pair of well-distributed albums so strong they were like the Midwest's own Beatles. By the end of the ’80s, The Bears had split as Belew began investing more time in his solo and other outside work.
Perhaps sensing the end was near, Arduser, Fetters and Nyswonger (among about a bazillion other musical projects) began performing as a trio in 1988. The three masterful musicians officially became psychodots in 1991 when they released their self-titled album. The ’dots picked up where they had left off with the raisins and Bears and returned to their status as one of the city's most reliable original music draws.
Psychodots went on indefinite hiatus in the mid-’90s as the trio's members continued to explore a variety of projects (from the Arduser-fronted Graveblankets to Fetters' solo work to Nyswonger's jobs in Bucket and many other local units). While remaining prolific individually, the band seems to have found a way to balance all of their projects better; both The Bears and psychodots have returned to action for live shows and even new releases. (The raisins have also reteamed for a few one-off shows.)
The ’dots' live activity has been especially spare, limited usually to a couple of special shows a year around Thanksgiving time. But, along with tonight's appearance on Fountain Square, the trio seems ready for at least a little increased activity. After the Indie Summer show was announced, the psychodots were added as opening act for Cheap Trick's concert at the Taft Theatre next week, July 6.
If you're one of tonight's three performers' fans, you're likely well aware of their histories. But if you're unfamiliar with any or all of tonight's acts, be sure to be on the Square by 7 p.m. for a free musical retrospective of Cincy Pop at its finest. (Fun fact: Arduser, Nyswonger and Fetters — with The Bears — and The Tigerlilies were performers at the very first Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in the mid-’90s.)