Cincinnati crew The Ohms have built an impressive career over the past decade-plus, starting out in the ’00s as a popular draw on the “Jam band” circuit as Four Ohms, before shifting gears and developing a surprisingly unique twist on the Rock-meets-Reggae hybridization, a pairing that everyone from Eric Clapton, The Clash and The Police to modern players like No Doubt, The Aggrolites and Matisyahu has flirted with and/or embraced since the ’70s.
Changing the band name to simply The Ohms a few years back (and garnering some national industry attention), the now stripped-down three-piece is in top fighting shape, sounding better than ever, as their recently released second album, Press On, proves beyond a shadow of a spliff. They’re a lean, mean skankin’ machine with a fresh coat of Modern Rock paint glazed atop.
Press On succeeds through careful and crafty, yet very natural-feeling, mixology — the Rock and Reggae elements never get in each other’s way, feel forced or fight for space in The Ohms’ groove-driven mix, a testament to the musicians’ abilities as arrangers and writers. The title track, for example, sounds like a perfectly natural jam session between Green Day and Rancid. A minute into the track, the Punk/Pop-like drive drops to a head-bobbing flow of buoyant, vintage Reggae rhythms, ’70s-styled songcraft and Ska horns.
The album continues with that basic blueprint throughout, but few tracks are predictable and there are variations galore. “Vampire” is a voodoo strut that explodes into a huge, engulfing chorus, while elsewhere the band tinkers with the full range of Reggae sounds, styles and approaches (from Roots to Ska to Dub, grunting toasting to full-voiced, highly melodic melodies) and welds them together with the musicians’ excellent grasp of Classic Rock and top-notch musicianship.
Reggae and Ska remain two of the more maligned genres in music (usually unfairly … and it always comes back around), but The Ohms have such an addictive energy, even the most hardened “Pfft — Reggae sucks” protestor won’t be able to resist bobbing along to the contagious beats and rhythm.
Fresh on the heels of the release of Press On, The Ohms have been focused on this weekend's big Ohmstead music festival at Hannon’s Camp America (hannonscampamerica.com) near Oxford.
Ohmstead is now entering its 11th year, which certainly puts the event amongst some of the longest running artist-built festivals of its kind in the region. For this weekend’s (Friday and Saturday, plus a little Sunday morning/afternoon action) Ohmstead blowout, The Ohms have joined forces with Wham Bam Thank You Jam fest to help manage and operate a big “Ohmstead Wham Bam Thank You Jam” conglomo-fest, which once again features an impressively diverse lineup of inventive music makers, mostly from across Ohio.
The multi-act festival — with The Ohms performing both nights, as has become tradition — presents everything from progressive Psychedelic Jam Rock (Cincy’s Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds), Kent, Ohio-based Ambient/Electronic/Industrial musician Pyrosonic, smooth acoustic guitarist Brian Henke (from Bay Village, Ohio) and fellow Reggae squad Soul Rebels (from straight outta Yellow Springs), promising Cincy Alt/Psych/Garage/Rock foursome Lemon Sky, retro-tinged local rockers Tattered Roots, popular touring “Hippie-Hop Jam Rock” outfit Boogie Matrix (Toledo) and Northern Ohio Jam band Aliver Hall, which showcases former Four Ohms member Alex Hall on guitar and vocals. Other artists slated to appear include Dayton-based Phish tribute band Oh Kee Pa, Dayton Funk rockers Magic Jackson, Oxford area Blues band Bad Men on a Mission and Nigerian-born/Cincy-based AfroBeat champ Baoku Moses.
Here is the most recent 2012 Wham Bam Thank U Jam and Ohmstead lineup (with "city of origin"), posted by the WhamBam folks (who add that attendees should check the info booth because times will "likely change"):
3pm - Trench Foot - Dayton, Ohio
4pm - Tony Herdman and Tracy Sax - Kettering, Ohio
5pm - Gild the Lily - Dayton, Ohio
6pm - Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds - Cincinnati, Ohio
7pm - Brown Street Breakdown - Dayton, Ohio
8pm - Tattered Roots - Cincinnati, Ohio
9pm - Subterranean House Band - Dayton, Ohio
10pm - Prophets Mire - Dayton, Ohio
11pm - Magic Jackson - Dayton, Ohio
12:30am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio
Saturday (in the Barn)
10am - Brian Henke - Bay Village, Ohio
Noon - Andyman Hopkins Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
1pm - Bad Men on a Mission - College Corner, Ohio
2pm - Soul Rebels - Yellow Springs, Ohio
3pm - Elementree Presents - Cincinnati, Ohio
4pm - Nine False Suns - Dayton, Ohio
5pm - M 8 7 - Dayton, Ohio
Saturday (Wham & Bam Stages)
6pm - S O L - Piqua, Ohio
7pm - Happy Lemmy - Birmingham, Alabama
8pm - Lemon Sky - Cincinnati, Ohio
Fire Celebration Ceremony - at Dusk / Sunset - in Middle Earth
9pm - Aliver Hall - Akron, Ohio
10pm - Oh Kee Pa (Phish trib) - Dayton, Ohio
11:30pm - Boogie Matrix - Toledo, Ohio
1am - The Ohms - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Baoku & the Image Afro Beat Band - Cincinnati, Ohio
2:30am - Pyrosonic - Kent, Ohio - In the Barn!
Sunday (in the Barn)
10am - Tracy Sax Therapy - Kettering, Ohio
Noon - Steev Inglish - London, England
1pm - The Finders - Cincinnati, Ohio
2pm - Troll - Cincinnati, Ohio
Three-day passes are only $35. Visit whambamthankujam.com for info on how/where to buy tickets, the full rundown of performer links and a list of the various on-site vendors, plus perks like “Ohio’s Largest Fire Sculpture” and camping opportunities.