By: Derek Jung
So far this summer, the sound at Cincinnati's Fountain Square has been lackluster at best, and so distracting that the artist temporarily leaves the stage at worst. With all of the gadgets Robert DeLong brings with him on tour, I didn't have high hopes for what it would sound like, especially considering the last time I saw him was at Madison Theater, which has a fantastic sound system. Despite a few hiccups and a depressing lack of bass or low range, the sound actually wasn't too bad.
DeLong is ramping down his touring schedule, having been going hard since his most recent album In The Cards was released last September. Overall, the show hasn't changed much in the last 9 months, and I found myself having déjà vu during many of the "wow" portions of the set, including the drum solo end to set closer "Global Concepts". The show was much less of a dance party compared to the Madison Theater show, probably because the lack of bass created a pretty dull atmosphere. Only a small portion of the crowd was dancing, and DeLong, by no fault of his own, could never muster the extra energy to take the crowd over the edge.
The other element that was greatly lacking from this show was DeLong's visuals. Typically, a screen is right behind him projecting awesome video effects during his performance, but at Fountain Square, the visuals were projected on a screen on the building behind the stage. So you had to look at either the stage or the screen; it was impossible to look at both at the same time, so I chose not to look at the effects at all.
DeLong is definitely worth seeing. Being the only person on stage and playing all of his gizmos and gadgets is fun to watch. Hopefully next time he's in Cincinnati we'll hear some new material and a fresher performance.
By: Joseph Kathmann
Another year, another Forecastle. Set on the Ohio riverfront in beautiful Waterfront Park in downtown, Louisville, Forecastle has been a personal favorite of mine for years. Though, as Bunbury Music Festival has expanded in Cincinnati, the biggest loser seems to be Forecastle. But they took a different approach this year, forgoing big name headliners (the top artist this year was Alabama Shakes) and instead trying to focus on a solid under bill of small to mid-size artists. I don't know if this strategy worked Friday or Saturday, but with Death Cab for Cutie and Ryan Adams headlining Sunday, the festival appeared to be pretty empty despite the solid under bill. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen the festival as empty as it was, and I honestly felt like I was 1 of 4 people who purchased a one day Sunday pass. That said, I had a blast once again this year, despite a few hiccups along the way.
What I Liked
Death Cab for Cutie
This was by far my biggest surprise of the day. Both Derek and myself have not been super high on Death Cab in recent years, and we both found their latest album, Kintsugi, to be lackluster at best. Not only that, but I had seen Death Cab once before way back in 2012 at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and I felt back then they left a lot to be desired. Well look how far they've come. Their live show was actually a GREAT joy to watch, and I found myself dancing along to songs I haven't listened to in years. While I still find a lot of their studio music lackluster, I will not hesitate to admit that their live show has come a LONG way.
This was the very first band I came in on during the day. And they were definitely one of the best from the under bill. But this is more of a platform to talk about that. One thing Forecastle excelled in this year was spontaneous discovery. For example, after watching Heartless Bastards I walked over to the main stage just to see what was going on, and was treated to an awesome Jamaican band called Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. I didn't know much of anything about The Suffers, but they had just stated playing when I walked into the festival and I suddenly found myself dancing to their soulful music. Someone did their homework for this year's Forecastle, ensuring that some of the best small acts from multiple genres were represented at the festival. Kudos on that one, guys.
What I Disliked
The Ocean Stage
This is a stage that has always kind of irked me at Forecastle. Its under an overpass so while it's a nice place to cool off during the hot Louisville summer sun, the sound quality has always been something of a joke. As a result, this stage has mostly played host to EDM bands (for some reason) and so I've mostly stayed away from it. Well, this year, Patrick Watson and Unknown Mortal Orchestra found themselves playing on this stage, and my beliefs in how terrible this stage is were confirmed. For starters, in addition to bad sound reverb there were actual sound problems with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, as the entire bassist's mic setup went out just a few songs into their set. The band truly struggled for the rest of the day, and ultimately I left extremely disappointed. At Patrick Watson, the poor band was so scrunched up on the tiny stage that they couldn't deliver any amount of intensity to the crowd, and you could tell they were a little frustrated. As much as I love the idea behind this stage, it's time for a revamp. Artists need more room to move, and something has to be done about the terrible sound quality. Maybe something on the underneath of the overpass?
The Lack of Much of Any Arts + Culture
Look, I get it. Most of us don't go to a music festival for the art. That's oftentimes just a side note. But the art side of Forecastle is smaller than ever, with just a few tents displaying art in one small corner of the festival. There was a great emphasis on bourbon this year at least, as there should be in the bourbon capital of the world, but the beer world got a MAJOR ax at the festival as well. I was very bummed to see a total of 4 craft breweries show up at the festival this year, each only bringing along 2 of their staple beers and allowed to pour 4 oz. pours. The de-emphasis on arts and culture this year really showed Forecastle's shrinking in stature. Perhaps in future years you should place more emphasis on the culture part of the festival if you can't bring in top acts? Just a thought.
That said, I still had a blast at Forecastle and I really enjoyed the more intimate festival atmosphere. We'll see how Forecastle tries to get out of the shadow of the major festivals surrounding it next year, but I know I will show up dancing on the banks of the Ohio River for at least a day regardless of what happens.
By: Derek Jung
In the world of nostalgia acts, the talent comes in a wide range of varieties. There are acts that were fantastic in their heyday and have aged like a fine wine. Bands in this category have continued to tighten their performances with experience and their hits feel as fresh as they did twenty or thirty years ago. There are also acts that should have hung it up years ago, spoiled by age, familiarity, or new band members that can't quite capture the magic of the original lineup. Going into the show, I was on the fence as to which side Joe Walsh would fall. Walsh has been in a few of the most iconic rock bands in the 70s, The Eagles and James Gang, not to mention a successful solo career of his own, but that peaked decades ago. I was curious to see and experience what he had to offer.
Opening the night was JD and the Straight Shots, an americana band fronted by billionaire James Dolan, the media and telecom giant. Dolan was joined by a who's who of studio and touring musicians, including musicians who have played with B.B. King, Robert Plant, Adele, and more. While his backing band was not lacking in talent, Dolan unfortunately left much to be desired. His vocals were rough and hollow, and his guitar playing was amateur. I couldn't help but think this was merely a mid-life crisis band for a lifetime businessman who just happened to have the money to scrape together a group of talented musicians and buy himself onto a tour. He's certainly not above plugging his own band in a tv show from a channel that he owns. Their song "Can't Make Tears" is the theme to AMC's Hell On Wheels. I was not impressed.
Joe Walsh took the stage to rousing applause and immediately dove into the James Gang favorite "Walk Away". While he wasn't overly energetic on stage, understandable at nearly 69 years of age, his vocals were surprisingly sharp and his playing was still top notch. Backed by two drummers (Joe Vitale and Chad Cronwell), Waddy Wachtel on guitar, Larry Young on bass, keyboardist Jimmy Wallace, four backup vocalists and, in what has to be the most interesting band member of the night, DJ Clayton Janes. Yes, a DJ. Thankfully, his presence was all but unnoticeable for the majority of the night, except for the bridge on "Funk #49" where they broke out into a giant dance party. His backup vocalist danced to the front of the stage, DJ Clayton Janes donned light up sunglasses, and Walsh brought a stuffed alligator toy to wave at the crowd. I'm still trying to figure that one out. As far as crazy happenings for Joe Walsh, that might be a little subdued compared to his partying days, but it felt more than a little out of place for such a music-focused show. Breaks from the music were few and far between. Walsh stopped only a few times to yell "HOW YOU DOIN?", which the crowd ate up, but everything else was nearly too slurred to understand. Although he's been sober since the early nineties, the effects linger on.
Even though I'm not a big Eagles fan, although the two he played were my favorites, the rest of his catalog is definitely worth seeing if you haven't. "Funk #49" becomes more and more iconic as the years pass, and there's no denying his solo material has had similar longevity. Life's certainly been good to him so far.
Watch a video recap of the show from Walsh below.
Walk Away (James Gang)
Everyday People (Sly & The Family Stone cover)
The Bomber: Closet Queen/Bolero/Cast Your Fate to the Wind (James Gang)
Take It to the Limit (Eagles)
Turn to Stone
In the City
Funk #49 (James Gang)
Life's Been Good
Life in the Fast Lane (Eagles)
Rocky Mountain Way
By: Derek Jung
If there's one artist that's had a constant presence in my musical evolution, it's Weird Al, the kooky, fun-loving, long haired parodist and accordion player. Going strong since the early 1980's, Weird Al has only recently garnered his first #1 album on the US charts as well as winning his 4th Grammy award for 2015's Mandatory Fun. Al has stated that this album would be his last in the traditional LP variety; going forward he'll start releasing singles and EPs as he records songs. In the meantime, however, he has been heavily touring Mandatory Fun, and his stop in Cincinnati was in the middle of the final run of dates for this album cycle. That being said, there was little evidence of tour fatigue.
The show began as Al walked from his tour into the pavilion singing "Tacky", the parody of the Pharrell Williams hit "Happy". That set the stage for two hours of hilarity. Al and the band wore many different costumes throughout the set, including a purple octopus outfit and ice cream cone hat for "Perform This Way", full Devo outfits, an Amish costume for "Amish Paradise", a fat suit for "Fat", and a full cast of Star Wars stormtroopers and Darth Vader for the encore songs. Of course, changing from outfit to outfit takes time, so in between songs, montages of Weird Al's tv and movie cameos played on the backdrop screen. These montages were oftentimes funnier than the song performances, and kept the show from having too many breaks in the action. Honestly, I didn't realize how many cameos he's made throughout the years.
One of the most surprising things about seeing Weird Al live is just how talented his band is. They mimic the styles of so many different artists so perfectly. Not only that, but Al himself can sing very well, and his stage presence is goofy, but focused and hilarious. I especially appreciated the dorky way that he swung his arms about. All in all, Al and his band, who have been together for over twenty-five years, use that familiarity and experience to their advantage. It's almost effortless.
While I haven't listened to his most recent albums as much as I did Poodle Hat, Running With Scissors, and Bad Hair Day, I was thoroughly entertained by the new material. Al, you're a cultural icon and made such an impact on my childhood. I'm glad I can finally say that I've seen you live.
Lame Claim to Fame
Now That's What I Call Polka!
Perform This Way
Dare to Be Stupid
First World Problems
Smells Like Nirvana
Party in the CIA / It's All About the Pentiums / Handy / Bedrock Anthem / Another One Rides the Bus / Ode to a Superhero / Gump / Inactive / eBay
Wann B Ur Lovr
Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon (all acoustic)
White & Nerdy
We All Have Cell Phones (meta concert reference)
The Saga Begins
By: Joseph Kathmann
Oh hey it's a month later: time to talk about Bonnaroo right? This was my second Roo, and this time I came for the experience. I was definitely in the camp that felt that this year's lineup....left something to be desired, but I still wanted to go since I was living in Nashville and wanted a reason to be back in that atmosphere. Despite the lackluster lineup I found myself having a blast from start to finish, even during the low points of the weekend. If you only take one thing out of this post, let it be this: if you're a fan of festivals you owe it to yourself to go to Bonnaroo at some point in your life. You listening, Derek?
Easily the best performance of this year's festival, Eddie Vedder and Co. tore through their two hour Saturday night headlining set. Their 22 song setlist featured classics from Vitalogy and almost all of Ten, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of the 90s. The set even came with some very Bonnaroo moments, like Eddie Vedder bringing his daughter out to celebrate her birthday and asking 75,000 people to light up their cellphones as candles for her to blow out. But in between singing her happy birthday and some of Vedder's political rants, Pearl Jam tore the figurative roof off Roo, jamming and shredding with experience and total ease. It was a sight to behold, and definitely the best moment of Roo 2016.
I love seeing an artist when they're at their prime. That's exactly where Kamasi Washington is after he turned the jazz world on its head with 2015's The Epic, which both Derek and myself had in our top ten favorite albums of 2015. (you can revisit that list here) Kamasi Washington and his band are masters of their craft, and this set was a freaking clinic of jazz. Not only that, but Kamasi did a wonderful job to showcase the members of his band, introducing each of them individually before a song that featured them. This was one of the rarer grabs for Roo 2016, and Kamasi single-handily made the trip to the farm worth it. Check out their performance of "Changing of the Guard" here.
So, I'm gonna be honest, I knew very little about Jason Isbell before this set. I had heard some of his music here and there, but for the most part going into Roo 2016 Isbell was not really on my radar. Just a chill set I was gonna check out the last day before Father John Misty. Well, Isbell quickly converted me to his music. One of the most passionate performances I have ever seen, Jason Isbell and his band took the unsuspecting crowd on an emotional journey through his quick 1 hour set. His performance of "Cover You Up" actually made me tear up a bit, which hasn't happened to me since I saw Neutral Milk Hotel. (check out the performance here) But it's clear that Isbell truly pours his heart and soul into everything, and while he might not be as energetic as someone like Jack White, he still entranced the crowd from start to finish.
This made me a little sad honestly. While Derek was not very high on BØRNS album Dopamine, (check out his review here) I found it at least kind of enjoyable. Not only that, but I absolutely love his singles "Electric Love," "10,000 Emerald Pools," and "American Money," even if that last one sounds eerily familiar. Unfortunately, BØRNS was unable to even remotely convey these singles and his other music in a live atmosphere. The audience was.....bored for the vast majority of this set, and that is definitely not a word you want to use at a live performance. Now I will give BØRNS some slack as his set was plagued by sound issues from start to finish, his biggest problem was that he was just....quiet. Super quiet. During "Electric Love" all you could hear was the crowd. Not even his band was audible. My buddy turned to me and was like, "Damn this crowd band is amazing." When you want to turn to the person next to you and tell them to be quiet, you probably do not have a very captivating performance to keep your attention.
Ok. I'll let most of you who might be shocked LCD Soundsystem is on this list dismiss everything I say by saying this first: I did not think these guys should've been headliners. Late night set? Absolutely. Headliners? No freaking way. And while other publications will say that it was the triumphant return Roo needed or something, they must have been in the front with the rest of the fans cause from where I was? Most of the crowd was bored. Now I made no effort to get there early since M83 played until the start of this set, so I wasn't with the fans, but there was simply no energy in the vast majority of the crowd. Not only that, but LCD Soundsystem was given a 2 hour set and only played for about 90 minutes. That really bothers me (and there's another band on this list that's on here for the same reason) but if you're given 2 hours to play and you have the material to play for 2 hours.....why don't you fill that space?? Only 3 artists get that coveted 2 hour time slot so....use it! Not only that, but James Murphy felt the need to countdown the final songs of his set, which kind of made me think he was trying to get out of there as fast as possible. I don't know what others saw here, but I know I have no intention of seeing LCD Soundsystem at Lollapalooza in a few weeks. Die Antwoord and Ellie Goulding, here I come!
The Bluegrass Situation Superjam
This one doesn't really deserve to be on the list. It's on here because of the sound crew. Now I get it. It's the end of the weekend and pretty much the entire festival has sprawled out with their drugs and alcohol to watch Dead and Co. for 4 hours, but the disaster that was the sound system at the Bluegrass Superjam cannot be ignored. Not only was the sound crew unable to keep up with who was playing at any given moment, several of the mics were busted and were giving feedback through the sound system on numerous occasions. Ed Helms did the best he could, and the rest of the Bluegrass legends on stage tried to have a good time, but you could tell everyone was frustrated. It was a rather disappointing way to end the performances outside the What Stage for 2016.
Macklemore + Ryan Lewis
Putting Macklemore + Ryan Lewis on the What Stage right before Pearl Jam's headlining set was a fascinating show of two VERY different styles. One is known the world over for having one of the most authentic and jaw dropping live performances out there, and the other is Macklemore. But holy crap was this performance still awesome, because its in-authenticity was its strength. From a ridiculous build in to "Thrift Shop" to having a staged dance-off during "Dance Off" Macklemore + Ryan Lewis (who, sadly, did little more than jump up and down and tell the audience to clap their hands) had one goal in mind: entertain the crowd. And entertain they did. As crazy and staged as this set was, (if someone told me that it was confirmed that Macklemore lip synced the entire time, I'd believe them) I had a shockingly good time. Oh and seeing Eric Nally from our beloved Foxy Shazam was probably my favorite moment of the entire festival. So there's that.
Tame Impala made this list here because I didn't know where else to put them. But this was, for me, by FAR the most disappointing set of Roo 2016. It wasn't bad, so to say, it was just.....well....disappointing. When I saw Tame Impala, after releasing one of the best psychedelic records of recent memory, (and an album which also made our top 10 albums from 2015) was being given a late night set at Roo I nearly lost my mind. Dreams of Skrillex's incredible late night set from Roo 2014 filled my brain as I envisioned Tame Impala going nuts and playing until first light Saturday morning. I guess my expectations were just too high, because when the band left the stage at 2:30, only 90 minutes in, I (and the rest of the crowd) thought, "They're just taking a break, right?" Most of the crowd sat and waited for Tame Impala to come back out and say that was just part 1 of their set or something, but it never happened. As the minutes ticked by, despair set in and I watched my Tame Impala bubble burst. The set itself was great, albeit a bit more chilled than I was expecting, but man....what an incredible opportunity wasted.
The "Bonnaroo" Moments
Chance the Rapper tours the festival and ultimately becomes a DJ
Every year, things happen at Bonnaroo that you don't see anywhere else. In 2014 it was Ben Folds touring the festival. This year was no different. Easily the most "Bonnaroo" moment this time around was Chance the Rapper touring the festival, despite not having a set himself. At least initially. While I myself wasn't able to see it, on Sunday Bonnaroo surprised everyone by announcing a unique "listening party" to close the Silent Disco and Chance the Rapper filled the tent with fans as they listened to him play his latest album, Coloring Book, in full. I did at least get to see Chance during Macklemore's set when he brought out Chance to perform "Need to Know," but Chance's presence as the Mayor of Bonnaroo was felt all throughout the festival.
CHVRCHES Brings Out Hayley Williams
There were several special guest appearances, especially since Bonnaroo is just a hop skip and a jump from Nashville, but none were hyped up like the "surprise" appearance from Hayley Williams during CHVRCHES set. I guess it was a surprise for everyone who didn't see CHVRCHES when they came through Nashville last September. But this appearance came on the heels of CHVRCHES releasing "Bury It" featuring a verse from the Paramore star, so I think pretty much everyone saw it coming. But I cannot deny that there is a vibe between Hayley and Lauren Mayberry that made watching them dance together on stage just....awesome. I hope in their next album CHVRCHES features Hayley Williams a lot so she actually goes on tour with them.
The Final Recap
Once again Bonnaroo pleasantly reminds us why they are as great a festival as they are. The entire experience seemed to run very smoothly, and even the weather delay Saturday night was handled as well as it could have been. Never was there a point where I asked myself why such and such was done this way and never did I feel Bonnaroo (and Live Nation) was trying to take my money simply for the sake of, well, taking my money. (Glares at Bunbury) With the obvious exception of the parking passes of course. But if that's the only change Live Nation blatantly implements, I'd be happy. While some are not happy with Live Nation's acquisition of Bonnaroo (someone wrote F*** Live Nation on the graffiti wall Saturday night) I was impressed at how invisible their presence ultimately was. Well done everyone. Can't wait for Bonnaroo 2017!
Thursday: Vulfpeck, Borns
Friday: Kamasi Washington, CHVRCHES, M83, LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala
Saturday: Grace Potter, Chris Stapleton, Two Door Cinema Club, Macklemorre & Ryan Lewis, Pearl Jam, Superjam Featuring Kamasi Washington & Friends
Sunday: Civil Twilight, Charles Bradley, The Wood Brothers, Jason Isbell, Father John Misty, Third Eye Blind, The Bluegrass Situation Superjam featuring Ed Helms and Friends, Dead & Co.
By: Derek Jung
Coming off last year's fabulous "All Your Favorite Bands", which both Joseph and I named as one of our favorites of 2015, the band's increased air time on independent radio has definitely bolstered their already passionate cult following. The last time they were in Cincinnati, they were opening for Hozier (remember him?). This time, Taft Theatre was packed for the California rockers, and they gave the audience a foot stomping good time.
It all started with The Lone Bellow, who opened the night. I was curious how the crowd would react to them, as I've only ever seen them as a headliner - once at MusicNOW Festival and again at 20th Century Theater. Either a large portion the crowd were already fans, or many new ones were made that night. By the end of the set, everyone was on their feet, clapping and singing along. In fact, I'd argue that they were the most successful opener to actually warm up the crowd that I've seen in a long time. They even managed a section-by-section theater singalong on "Then Came The Morning" that wasn't half-hearted or sarcastic.
With that said, Dawes took the stage to an eager and ready crowd and they kept the energy high throughout the majority of their set. Mixing a generous heaping of songs from the entirety of their discography, lead singer Taylor Goldsmith's cheerful demeanor lightened the retrospective melancholy that oftentimes features heavily in his songwriting. He bounced back and forth on stage, especially during drawn out jams or his guitar solos, smiling and playing the frontman role well. Taylor's brother Griffin, the band's drummer, complemented his vocals with an almost perfect harmony. The two even played a few songs completely unplugged, joined by the band's touring keyboardist, with only their voices and an acoustic guitar. The other members were much more subdued in their playing, giving Goldsmith the spotlight. Bassist Wylie Gelber would sit on the drum riser from time to time and second guitarist Alex Casnoff, wearing his signature hat and long, straightened hair, hardly moved unless he was playing a solo, and even then only took a few steps forward.
"When My Time Comes" still holds the same power and emotion for me that it did nearly ten years ago when it was released. Taylor can still hit the amazing chorus and hearing it reverberate throughout the theater gave me chills. The night closed with the crowd overpowering the band's singing on "All Your Favorite Bands", easily the most Kumbayah moment of the night.
Dawes has hinted that a new album is on the way soon. If that means another round of touring, I'll jump at the next chance I get to see them.
Check out a video of the aforementioned unplugged performance of "How Far We've Come".
From a Window Seat
That Western Skyline
Coming Back to a Man
I Can't Think About It Now
If I Wanted Someone
Now That It's Too Late, Maria
How Far We've Come
Take Me Out of the City
Right On Time
A Little Bit of Everything
When My Time Comes
From the Right Angle
All Your Favorite Bands
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: