Let's Get Musi-Cool

Nine little things to look for from nine big local music happenings

click to enlarge Southgate House Revival
Southgate House Revival

After one of the best summers for music in Cincinnati in a long time, autumn is going to have to offer up a lot of cool musical happenings to avoid season envy. Luckily for those of us who live and love Greater Cincinnati, it appears the momentum of the summer is definitely going to carry over.

Here is a sampling of nine big things going on this fall involving local music … with some smaller things to look out for with each.1: On Sept. 25, 1999, unbeknownst to anyone, one of Cincinnati’s greatest musical exports, The Afghan Whigs, performed what would be their final public concert before deciding to call it quits. This Oct. 25, the Whigs return to Bogart’s, exactly 13 years and 1 month since that “last show.” The sold-out Bogart’s gig will follow months of roadwork across the globe, which has resulted in universal praise, with many saying the band that once skated on the edge of the ’90s Grunge and Alternative revolutions is in peak form.

What to watch for: The Whigs have long been known for their great taste in cover tunes and they’ve pulling out a few on the road this year. They’ll probably do their acclaimed Frank Ocean cover, but will they dust off a special oldie for Cincy fans, like maybe TLC’s “Creep” or side one of Pink Floyd’s The Wall?

2: One of the Jazz world’s most respected pianists/composers, Cincinnati native Fred Hersch returns to his hometown to play the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Sept. 24 and 25 (two shows each night; visit thebluewisp.com for details). Over the course of around 40 albums (including several collaborative releases) in nearly 30 years, Hersch has become one of the more acclaimed artists in Jazz, not only for his peerless piano skills, but also for his compositional and arrangement talents — the pianist has written and performed inventive pieces like “Leaves of Grass” (based on Walt Whitman’s writing) and, most recently, “My Coma Dreams,” a Jazz-meets-theater piece written about the dreams Hersch remembers from when his nearly 25-year battle with AIDS put him in a coma for more than two months in 2008. Hersch was nominated for two Grammys at the most recent awards ceremony for 2011’s Alive at the Vanguard album, the fourth and fifth nods of his impressive career.

What to watch for: Camera crews. After scoring a grant for funding, production on the feature-length documentary Fred Hersch Now started up again recently. The project of award-winning filmmakers Carrie Lozano and Charlotte Lagarde is described (at fredherschfilm.com) as a “chronicle (of) the life and work of a musical genius, an educator, an AIDS and gay rights activist and one of the foremost Jazz musicians of our time.”

3: Fans of Newport’s old Southgate House — which switched ownership and became the Thompson House earlier this year — were thrilled to hear that the people behind the original Southgate had secured a new space and will be bringing the SGH magic back this fall. The Southgate House Revival is set to open Oct. 5 at the former Grace Methodist Episcopal Church (111 E. Sixth St., just off Monmouth) and retain the same eclectic booking philosophy that made it a favorite not just of local music fans and musicians, but touring artists and visitors, too. So far only a few shows have been announced (such as the eclectic, two-day, local-music-heavy Ironfest 3, set for Nov. 2-3). Look for a more complete list of dates soon via facebook.com/theSouthgateHouseRevival.

What to watch for: Will the ghosts from the old mansion make their way to the new space or will they continue to haunt the Thompson House? (Depends on their tastes in music, I suppose…)

4: Despite the seemingly constant complaints that certain cities are favored over others, Cincinnati fared really well at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards in 2010. But last year the awards were dominated by Cleveland’s Machine Gun Kelly, and Cincy Hip Hop was not quite as well represented (local MC Young Butta did score the “Best New Artist” trophy and “Producer of the Year” went to Cincy’s Kill Will). Will Cincy Hip Hop do better this year when the OHHAs are doled out on Sept. 23 at the Aladdin Shrine Center in Columbus? You can lend a hand by voting (as much as once daily until Sept. 16) via ohiohiphopawards.com.
What to watch for: After backing Mac Miller on the road all year, will DJ Clockwork take home the “Turntablist of the Year” hardware? Can the all-star tracks helmed by Kool Ken (“Stop the Violence”) or B Luck (“Female Cincy Riot”) win “Best Collaboration”? Check ohiohiphopblog.com to see who won what.

5: While little ones are welcome (encouraged, actually), the “Bluegrass for Babies” concert at Sawyer Point on the second day of autumn (Sept. 22) isn’t a music fest featuring fiddlers and banjoists jamming high, lonesome versions of lullabies for newborns. BfB is a locally based non-profit that hosts annual concerts to raise funds for the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. With a goal of raising $50,000, the group’s fourth annual Bluegrass for Babies concert will run 4-9:30 p.m. and feature numerous family- (and eco-) friendly vendors, activities and exhibits, as well as some world-class Bluegrass. Headlining is nationally-acclaimed Michigan Americana/Bluegrass crew Greensky Bluegrass, local Jazz singer and children’s music singer/songwriter Jennifer Ellis and Cincy heroes The Comet Bluegrass Allstars round out the bill. (Visit bluegrassforbabies.com for complete info.)

What to watch for: Do babies dance to Bluegrass like a drunken Jesco White?

6: Young Cincy Dance/Alt/Pop quartet Walk the Moon is having the best year of its career — by a long shot. Already a constant (and increasingly popular) presence on the national touring circuit, things kicked into overdrive for the group when its debut for RCA Records was finally released this summer. Besides non-stop touring and big fest appearances, the band has appeared on the late-night shows of Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, was declared a “You Oughta Know” artist by VH1 and had its very own MTV Unplugged episode. Next up is an extensive European tour with the band fun., followed by the group’s second “homecoming” show since the album release on Nov. 1 at Covington’s Madison Theater.

What to watch for: The group’s trademark tribal face-painting at live shows caught on amongst WTM fans, who would often go to shows with their faces painted like the band members. But when the album was released, Walk the Moon ditched the fun gimmick. Will local fans show up to the Covington show with their war-paint on, or did everyone get the memo?

7: For serious music-heads, the start of fall in Cincinnati is marked by the return of the annual MidPoint Music Festival, now entering its 11th year. The event once again features a spectacular mix of noise-makers both local (Bad Veins, Brian Olive, Freekbot, Pomegranates and The Seedy Seeds, to name but a few) and national (Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird and Sleigh Bells, to name another few). MPMF.12 takes over Over-the-Rhine for three days of musical adventuring Sept. 27-29. New this year: new stages at the renovated Washington Park and Emery Theatre, an expansion of the MidPoint Midway and the inaugural MidPoint Film Festival. For tickets and full info, visit mpmf.com.

What to watch for: Your comprehensive MPMF.12 official guide, which hits streets in next week’s (Sept. 12) edition of CityBeat!

8: Some of Cincinnati’s finest will be putting out new releases this fall. Amazing Indie/Art Pop band Culture Queer returns with the new LP Nightmare Band on Oct. 16 (with a national promotional campaign behind it). Some of the finest Cincinnati Pop Rock songwriters of all time, The Newbees, host a release party for a new full-length, Modern Vintage, on Oct. 6 at the new Southgate House Revival. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, creative Americana/Newgrass foursome Hickory Robot’s Sawyer is currently being prepped for the masses (the band hosts a release party at Southgate House Revival on Oct. 19). And, later in September, Shake It Records will release the next installments of its “Dangerous Highway: The Songs of Eddie Hinton” singles series paying tribute to the legendary Soul songwriter. The third volume is a split single featuring former local group Heartless Bastards and current faves Wussy (the two acts are touring together this fall), while the fourth volume features two covers by great Psych Rock band Buffalo Killers.

What to watch for
: A lot of kick-ass record release parties.

9: After a year off, the popular CincyPunk Fest is set to return this fall for two nights of great, mostly local music from a diverse collection of artists (don’t be fooled by the “Punk” word; CPF has long heavily featured various strains of Rock and Indie sounds in its eclectic lineups). For the 11th edition of CincyPunk Fest, organizers are using Newport’s Southgate House Revival, making it the first big “fest” at the new venue. Mark your calendar for Oct. 12-13. And stay tuned to cincypunkfest.com for the full lineup and ticket info.

What to watch for: CincyPunk Fest has also served as a fundraiser for many different local charities over the years (this year’s donation will go to Recycled Doggies and Save Our Shelter Dogs). How much will organizers add to the nearly $50,000 the previous 10 CPFs have raised cumulatively?

Updated 9/6 to correct math in Afghan Whigs item.

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