By: Joseph Kathmann
Wow. What a show. While this may be my first show of 2017, I think it may be hard for anyone to top it. I do believe the venue played a major part in this, but I think a lot of it was also the band themselves. There's something special about the band's frontman, Paul Janeway, when he takes the stage. Before I knew it, I felt like I was back in the early days of this legendary venue with a rowdy crowd of people looking to de-stress after a hard day's work. When I moved to Nashville almost two years ago, this was what I envisioned the shows would be like.
Following their strong sophomore album, which Derek and I both enjoyed, this tour has been something of a coming out party for the band. The show started with opener William Tyler bringing in some traditional country tunes. It was something of a weak opener, which is a shame because William Tyler has been pretty influential around town in Nashville, but this crowd was simply not his demographic. He was also pretty nervous playing at the Ryman, but by the end of the show his nerves were gone and he played some upbeat country tunes that got the crowd's attention at least for a bit. I think he made the best of his situation, but for most of his set he sadly failed to get the attention of the crowd, and thus they didn't hesitate to talk over his set.
Fortunately, all that changed when St. Paul & The Broken Bones took the stage. The crowd, largely white and of which I was probably the youngest one, initially sat in the bleachers through the first half of the set. It did make for a goosebump-inducing moment when the crowd gave him a standing ovation for "Like a Mighty River," many people, myself included, were getting frustrated with the idea of sitting throughout this high energy-performance. I think Paul Janeway could sense this, and a few times he asked the crowd to get up and dance for a song. While this tactic didn't really work, as the set went on and the band increased their energy levels, they eventually forced the crowd up and then.....it was on. The rowdy energy in the Ryman was undeniable as the crowd cheered and uncontrollably banged on the bleachers throughout the final few songs and the encore, and the band responded to this in kind. It really was pretty awesome to see and be apart of that, and everyone left the show feeling like they had just seen a show at the Mother Church as it was intended. St. Paul & The Broken Bones are a perfect band to see at The Ryman, and even though the crowd was calm at first, the atmosphere eventually took hold and I found myself in the middle of one of the coolest shows I had ever seen.
By: Derek Jung
Let's make one thing clear: I don't go to many punk rock shows. FIDLAR was one of my favorite performances at Lollapalooza this year, so I couldn't pass up seeing them at my home venue. What an experience it was.
First off, openers The Frights and SWMRS played some pretty standard pop punk. The latter of which features Green Day lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong's son on drums and was very, very coached in terms of their performance. The lead singer had a Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant vibe in his dress with "Fuck Donald Trump" drawn on the front, and the guitarist did every cliched move in the book. All in all it was pretty ho hum, but the pit was definitely getting warmed up for the show to come.
FIDLAR took the stage to about a half capacity theater, which is pretty disappointing since they had been periodically selling out shows on their current tour, but that's Cincinnati for you. They immediately tore the roof off the venue with their cover of The Beastie Boys "Sabotage". From there it was 70 minutes of shredding through the hits from their first two albums. The audience ate it up, but we'll get there in a minute. The set was pretty similar to the one they played at Lollapalooza, but I wasn't expecting anything significantly different since they're on the same touring cycle. "Punks" is incredibly powerful live, and hearing everyone sing along to "Cheap Beer" and "Wake Bake Skate" was awesome.
The crowd, for being the size that it was, was absolutely insane. The pit was packed and churning with mosh pits through the entire set. Articles of clothing flew on stage so frequently that Brandon Schwartzel, the bassist tied about a dozen shoes to his mic stand in between songs. This, of course, encouraged more to be thrown on stage. I'm not sure moshing with bare feet is the best idea in the world, but I digress. Amongst the clothing being tossed were beer cans and water bottles, sometimes completely full and open. There was a nice, slick, sticky layer of filth on the pit floor after the show, which made me feel sorry for the staff of the newly renovated theater, but I guess it was to be expected. The moshing was much more intense than anything that we saw at Lollapalooza. A wall of death, contrary to the wall of hugs from Midpoint, actually looks very painful when witnessed in person, especially as bodies smack face first into each other at high speeds. Crowd surfing was a constant, and a few people even jumped from the second level onto the pit below. That's a drop of a good six or seven feet, people. Even one person managed to climb on stage and jump before security grabbed him. It was an amusing addition to the show, and definitely made it a memorable one to me.
Check out their cover of Sabotage from this year's Sziget Festival below.
By: Derek Jung
The free summer concert series at Fountain Square, now rebranded as Indie Vol. 2016, has been one of my favorite parts of Cincinnati summers for the past few years. This past weekend, Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable took the stage to support the release of the their newest album, Hitch. Admittedly, I haven't kept up with the band's previous two releases since their great debut album The Big Roar (My bad, fellas). That being said, the lead single from the new album, "The Last Thing On My Mind", is pretty good, so I was looking forward to hearing some of the new material. Unfortunately for the band and everyone in attendance, crafting a good mix and being at all competent at running sound was the last thing on the crew's mind Friday night.
After the first song of the set, lead singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan complained of an annoying buzzing sound in the monitor. It was apparently so bad that the band exited the stage for over 10 minutes to allow the sound crew to try to fix the issue. This was after the band played an acoustic song and told an absolutely terrible duck joke to stall for time. The band was visibly peeved, and rightfully so, especially with the hard 11pm end time looming on the horizon that would inevitably shorten the band's set. This was an embarrassing showing for the Indie Vol 2016 crew, especially after upping the quality of bands playing this year. This isn't to say that they haven't had issues in the past. I've reported on several of them (See: 1, 2).
Once everything was back in order, the band returned to the stage, but even then the band was adjusting their monitor mix for a good majority of the rest of the set. The mix being heard by the crowd wasn't much better. Ritzy's vocals were hardly audible for much of the time, which was a bummer because I've always been a fan of her voice. This wasn't fixed until the last two songs of the set, one of them being my personal favorite "Whirring" from The Big Roar.
For all of the issues on the night, the band was surprisingly energetic once they got going. The crowd, besides those closer to the front, did not share the same enthusiasm, so the energy came entirely from within the band. You have to respect a band that is able to salvage bad circumstances outside their control.
The final sequence of "Whirring", which includes a nice breakdown, found Ritzy giving her guitar to the front row and letting them strum whatever noises they wanted on it. One of the "noisemakers" passed Ritzy's pick to her boyfriend as a keepsake, all captured on the big screen tv above the stage (Yes, we all saw it, honey). Subsequently, drummer Matthew James Thomas, in a perfect embodiment of the evening, threw his gong mallet across the stage in an attempt for the "final blow" of of the set. He missed miserably to which Ritzy, who commented during their unsuccessful comedy set earlier that they were not allowed to curse, said, "fuck it".
Check out the band's new album, Hitch on Spotify.
By: Derek Jung
As festival season approaches, I always look to free up my schedule of potential festival conflicts by seeing artists in advance. G. Love & Special Sauce is playing Bunbury Music Festival in June, which both Joseph and I are attending. Usually, major festivals have radius clauses for bands that are scheduled to play, meaning they cannot play another show within a determined number of miles and within a certain span of time around the festival. Because of this, I was surprised to see G. Love on the bill of a birthday party scheduled at Madison Live!, which is located right across the river from where Bunbury will be happening in a mere month and a half. The show was advertised as "Kurt's First Annual Birthday Bash" rather than G. Love & Special Sauce, and it was not listed on G. Love's website, which may have been a clever loophole if there was a radius clause in their contract, but I certainly wasn't complaining either way. The way I saw it, I was seeing them in a much more intimate venue, seeing a much longer set than I would see at Bunbury, and if I didn't like them, I could easily skip their set in June. I had nothing to lose.
The trio of G. Love (lead singer, guitarist, harmonica), Jeff Clemens (drums), and Jim Prescott (upright bass), have been at it for most of the past two decades. Their self-titled debut, released in 1994, is to this day their most popular album. Their newest album, Love Saves The Day, was released last year on Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. I'll admit to being completely unfamiliar with the vast majority of their discography outside of their self-titled, so I went into their set mostly blind. For some artists it can lead to a show filled with sonic surprises, and for others you'll regret not "getting it". For me, my first G. Love experience was somewhere in the middle.
Considering this was a glorified birthday party, I was curious as to how many of the attendees were actually fans of G. Love. The band has an almost cult-like following in many areas, especially here in the Midwest. For the most part, I'd say Kurt's friends either already liked G. Love or became fans during their two set, nearly three hour performance. Or maybe they were all drunk, high, or both - who's to judge?
There's a comfort level that comes with playing your hits over the years like G. Love & Special Sauce has, and there's a fine line to walk between comfort and staleness. For the few songs that I was familiar with from the self-titled album, I think they nailed the sweet spot with an additional dose of charm and suavity. Jim Prescott is a downright monster on the upright bass and I think he'd be spinning that sucker around if he had just a little more room on the small Madison Live! stage. G. Love's smooth lyrical delivery and gritty harmonica playing were a nice juxtaposition, and the bluesier songs on the set were a welcome change of pace to the rest of the set and something that I did not expect at all. I wish they had played more in that style, but what they did play was great. All in all, it was a very enjoyable set.
Now comes the tough decision of whether or not I'll check out their set at Bunbury. Oh festival season...
Happy birthday Kurt! Can't wait to see who you bring for The 2nd Annual Kurt's Birthday Bash.
Check out a full set video of G. Love at the 2015 Pleasantville Music Festival.
By: Derek Jung
I had heard rumblings of Wolf Alice from across the pond for the last year, so when the UK band was announced at Madison Live! I was pleasantly surprised that such a big name band was going to play such a small, intimate venue here in town. If you don't know them, get familiar, because they're already one of the bigger acts in the UK at the moment. Their debut full length My Love Is Cool was recently nominated for The Mercury Prize, considered one of the highest musical honors, and their single "Moaning Lisa Smile" was also nominated for Best Rock Performance at the 2016 Grammys. Knowing that this very well could be the last opportunity to see them in such a small space, I had to go.
With the accolades the album has been receiving, I was really impressed at how well the energy translates live. Ellie Roswell's voice was in perfect form, and songs like "You're a Germ" and "Fluffy" really popped in terms of their raw grungy feel. Even though the focal point of the band is obviously Roswell, much of the energy and showy elements come from her bandmates, bassist Theo Ellis and guitarist Joff Oddie. Theo in particular, looking like The Bends-era Thom Yorke, kept me watching. Beyond that, one of the highlights of the show was definitely "Swallowtail", the only song sung by drummer Joel Amey, which was just as haunting as the album version, and the ending was stellar. In fact, every song in the set seemed to capture some additional force behind them, resulting in a captivating and wildly entertaining set. Simply put, the band sounded phenomenal.
While they only have one album and two EPs of material to perform, their show included every song that I wanted to hear. The only songs from My Love Is Cool that they didn't play were album opener "Turn To Dust" and "Soapy Water", one of the weakest songs on the album.
Check out the full setlist and a video of the band performing "Moaning Lisa Smile" below.
Your Loves Whore
You're a Germ
90 Mile Beach
Moaning Lisa Smile
By: Joseph Kathmann
EDITOR'S NOTE: Full disclosure time. This is my first show in Nashville and Bridgestone Arena. While I feel I successfully did not allow the awe and beauty of Nashville and its ridiculously amazing music scene to impact my opinion of the show, if you want to discredit everything I say about this show as being unable to get past this fact....your call.
So. There's always been a soft spot in my musical heart for Imagine Dragons. I really enjoyed their first album, and I can proudly proclaim in pretentious hipster-like fashion that I enjoyed "Radioactive" well before it became one of the biggest hits of the past few years. So, after missing their tour in support of that album, I made it a priority to see them this time around. While I'm glad I can officially cross them off my list, I thought their show was.....something of a letdown. Ok. That's not fair. Let me rephrase that. It was polarizing. Ridiculously polarizing. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
First off, let's have a discussion about the openers. I was very disappointed with the crowd on this one. The first opener was Halsey. She sounded like a wannabe Lorde but minus the soul/personality. One day later, I've already forgotten most of her music. And yet....there was a lot of screaming from the younger folks in the audience. At the time, I was impressed with the crowd. I didn't know much about Halsey, so I was thinking, "Oh! This audience did their homework and checked out the openers before the show!" Looking back on it, I don't really know why I thought this given the demographics of the crowd. Personally, I knew very little about Halsey going in. However, I did know and was excited for the second opener. Metric. And I (foolishly) expected everyone else to be excited for them too. Least after Halsey's reception.
For those who don't know, Metric is one of the major inspirations for today's modern alternative scene. Imagine Dragons even came out and said during their show that Metric was a huge inspiration for them. They've been around for years, and have built a strong and loyal following of fans. But none of them seemed to be at this show, because no one cared about Metric. The crowd, that was so engaged during Halsey's set, suddenly could barely even be bothered to cheer after each of Metric's songs. However, they were, in fact, amazing. In my opinion the highlight of the night, (yes, over Imagine Dragons) Metric took the completely non-engaging crowd and essentially said, "Screw it. We don't need their energy." and proceeded to tear through a 9 song, 45-minute set. I could feel their energy all the way from the upper deck. But nobody else seemed to care. This made me kind of depressed. This crowd should be thankful for the set they witnessed from these guys, and I strongly recommend seeing Metric as a headlining act at some point. I know that's now on my list. So, after this incredible set, Imagine Dragons took the stage.
As I said earlier, Imagine Dragons had a very polarizing set. The set started out in a very lackluster fashion, with the band playing two of the weaker songs off Smoke + Mirrors and then playing a HORRIBLE rendition of "It's Time." Frontman Dan Reynolds made it clear that he absolutely hates the song and decided to pull a Jared Leto and have the audience sing most of the song for him. I don't mind a singer doing this once or twice during a set, but any more than that is too much. Much less for most of a song. But then the band started turning it around with a great cover of "Forever Young" by Alphaville. The set kept getting better, and it peaked with one of the highlights." I'm So Sorry." So, let's wind the clocks back to when Smoke + Mirrors came out. At the time, Imagine Dragons were the kings of the alternative world. When you're on top of the world, (see what I did there?) I expect you to do something different with your new album, because you have the influence to bring scores of musicians with you through musical inspiration. Rather than doing this, Imagine Dragons did more of the same. And I think it definitely hurt the overall reception of Smoke + Mirrors. However, on the song "I'm So Sorry," I saw potential for a new direction from the band. And it seems the band enjoys this different direction, because they had an absolute blast playing this song. It had a chance to be the highlight of the set if they had only added a jam session to end the song. Because the studio ending of this song is very abrupt, and that carried over here. But then, they removed all traces of their energy with a somewhat lackluster acoustic version of the song "Thief." "Gold" was ok, but there's simply just too much production in that song-which they brought into the live version-so you can't really hear and enjoy it. To complete the downward spiral, we came to a mashup of "Bleeding Out"/"Warriors." Now, I checked the setlist of the tour before the show, so I knew this mashup was coming. I was really looking forward to it: two massive songs thrown together should make for a heck of a live version, right? WRONG. No, what we got was literally just a line or two of "Bleeding Out," then Reynolds basically reciting the refrain from "Warriors." All acoustic. No energy. It was just a ridiculous tease. You could hear the crowd brace themselves for awesomeness as soon Reynolds started singing the refrain to "Warriors," but then you could hear an audible groan when they didn't actually play any portion of either of these songs. So, instead of an awesome 10-minute mashup of these two songs, with the band just having a blast and jamming out, we got a 2-minute acoustic, lifeless, going-through-the-motions-so-we-can-checkmark-these-songs-off-the-list mashup. This was easily the low point of the entire set.
Fortunately things improved from here on out. "Demons" was fun and everything I hoped it would be, "On Top of the World" was fantastic, "Friction" contained an awesome, live-exclusive jam session, (that should've been in "I'm So Sorry" but better late than never I guess) and "I Bet My Life" was exactly what I was expecting. However in all honesty, by the end of "Demons" I was mostly just waiting for "Radioactive." I've watched the live version of this song many times and loved it, and what I got was exactly what I was expecting, which was one heck of a fun time. However, my final quirk with this set was the encore. After ending with an explosive finale in "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons thought it would be a good idea to come out and end the show with the finale of Smoke + Mirrors, "The Fell." Couple things wrong here. First off, a one-song encore is not an encore. It's an....appearance. But I would've been ok with that had the encore been "Radioactive." You can't end a set with that much intensity and then come out with a soulless, energy-less appearance for your encore. No. This decision by Imagine Dragons is catastrophically wrong. It's almost on the same level as Tegan and Sara ending their encore with a terrible cover song in place of what was obviously supposed to be "Everything is Awesome." I fear that this horrible choice of song for the encore is what will stick with me long after most of the set has left my memory. Only time will tell.
At the end of the day, Imagine Dragons was.....fine. I'm glad I saw them, but there were just too many horrifically bad moments in this set for me to truly say I had a great time. Especially when compared to Metric's set. Yes, at the end of the day, Metric stole the show on this one. You just don't know it yet.
Forever Young (Alphaville cover)
Smoke and Mirrors
I'm So Sorry
Bleeding Out / Warriors
On Top of the World
I Bet My Life
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: