I may be imagining it (the eternal optimist that I am), but it seems like ever since the Southgate House locked its doors at the end of 2011, many in the local booking world stepped up their game instantly. Though it's only been just over a month, it certainly doesn't feel as if the Greater Cincinnati concert market has been gutted by the loss of that one great club. And with several spots slated to open later this year (new venues from the brains behind the Southgate and Mad Hatter, plus whatever happens to the actual Southgate House building), it only looks to be getting better.
More good news on that front came out at the start of this week. On Feb. 10, an unexpected, big-time venue entered the mix — or rather, increased its presence in it. Downtown’s gorgeous Taft Theatre already this year announced some concerts by more “mid-level” groups like Trampled By Turtles and JJ Grey & Mofro, cult faves and Southgate alumni. Now, the Taft and promoter Music & Events Management Inc. are opening a new venue-within-a-venue that will allow the Taft to book artists who have outgrown small clubs but aren't quite ready for the big room.
The Ballroom at the Taft — located in the theater’s lower level — was designed to be, according to the press release, “a showcase style club venue that will play host to a variety of live entertainment events spanning all types of styles and genres.”—-
(Though perhaps a coincidence, the “Ballroom” moniker suggests a subtle nod to the Southgate; former Southgate manager Rick McCarty now works for MEMI/Taft.)
The first shows announced for The Ballroom at the Taft are promising. Popping TBATT's cherry on March 24, is Baltimore's J Roddy Walston and The Business, frequent Cincy visitors with a solid local fan base. The band will be joined by Nashville Pop/Rock crew The Features and local Indie band Pop Empire.
Modern Indie pioneers Low (with Dayton, Ohio/Dayton, Ky.,-based twosome R. Ring) will play the room on April 18 and Canadian Indie Folk troupe Great Lake Swimmers are booked for June 23 (with Northern Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore opening).
The venue’s most recent concert announcement came this morning and further shows that those in charge have a good sense of the local music community they operate within. Acclaimed Indie/Pop duo Bad Veins — one of the great local success stories from the past decade of Cincinnati music — will host the release party for its anticipated sophomore full-length, The Mess We’ve Made, on April 21 (marking the Veins' second grand release show; the one for their debut was on Fountain Square). Copies of Bad Veins' new album will be available at the show a whole three days before the rest of the world can buy it.
Speaking of Bad Veins, things seem to be continually heating up in their world as the album's release date approaches. The band released the first music from the new LP last week in the form of an excellent music video for the even more excellent song, "Dancing On TV." (I know those sneaky staffers at The Morning After blog beat me to the punch by posting this last week when it came out, but I think it may be one of my all-time favorite videos by a band from Cincinnati, so I may just end up running it on a weekly basis.) The moment the clip hit the intertubes, numerous well-known music blogs chimed in.
Although it comes off as if the video was designed as a tribute to Soul Train and its late founder/host Don Cornelius, the clip was actually shot at the studio headquarters of local PBS outlet CET over the summer. It was just a very strange coincidence that Cornelius passed away about five days before the video premiered. It's cool that the Veins haven't gone Hollywood on us yet, showing respect for the ’Nati by shooting it here and enlisting locals to help — for example, local shop Chicken Lays An Egg provided fashion and styling assistance and five skaters from the Cincinnati Rollergirls are in the cast (dressed in what they might have worn if they were roller derby girls in the early days of the sport).