By: Derek Jung
It's amazing what a change in venue can do for a listening experience. Two weeks ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed by Judah & the Lion's performance at Forecastle Festival, basically calling them X Ambassador wannabes. But Thursday afternoon's intimate performance in front of 100 or so attendees gave me better context for what the band is striving to achieve in their music, and even the poppier songs that I railed on previously sounded sincere and energized.
Being an acoustic set, some of the glamour of their live show had to be drawn back to fit the environment of the room. Frankly, I had my doubts going into the set because of how high energy their Forecastle performance was. To Judah and the band's credit, however, their storytelling, humor, and outward appreciation for the opportunity to do what they love were undeniably endearing. It also helped that our host, a DJ from Cincinnati's Q102, was so much better than the laughable performance by the KISS107 host during the Fitz & the Tantrums in studio performance earlier this year.
The biggest surprise was a cover of Eminem's "Lose Yourself", which Judah had some great flow. They also brought up a fan, who hilariously didn't know what he was volunteering for, to freestyle rap with mandolin player Brain Macdonald. To his credit, he managed to get everyone's hands up and sloppily get one diss out before giving up. While it wasn't good, it was certainly entertaining.
Overall, I was much more impressed by the band's energy and music in this setting than I was in a large festival atmosphere. The band will be back in Cincinnati later this fall.
Suit and Jacket
Back's Against the Wall
Lose Yourself (Eminem cover)
Little Girl of Mine In Tennessee
Take It All Back 2.0
By: Derek Jung
It's fun to watch a band grow from humble beginnings to achieve underground recognition. I first saw Dawg Yawp as a side act during last year's MusicNOW Festival, something that seemed so insignificant that I didn't even mention it in my review of the night, which was dominated by the extremely talented Chris Thile. Since then, Dawg Yawp has become a force in the Cincinnati local music scene, being featured on NPR's All Songs Considered, playing Bunbury Music Festival, and recently recording an NPR Tiny Desk show. The sky's the limit for these two dawgs, and their return to the Woodward Theater was the band's biggest crowd at the venue to date.
Since I last saw them at WNKU's Studio 89 back in February, the band has been fleshing out their live performances with more improvisational jams. On the one hand, I think this is a great step in the right direction in terms of their sound, but, as with anything, practice makes perfect and there were still a few kinks to iron out. Some of the slower jams felt a little empty sonically , but I suppose that's to be expected when there are only two instruments featured. The band did play some great covers, including their set standard of The Beatles classic "Two Of Us" as well as a surprise cover of "Blue Ridge Mountains" by Fleet Foxes.
I'm looking forward to hearing what direction the band decides to move towards in their new material. There was a definite shift in crowd engagement between certain song styles. Folky songs like "East Virginia Blues" were well received by the crowd, who stomped and clapped their hands to the beat. In contrast, more experimental songs like "18 caret" quickly found the crowd losing interest and the chatter got louder and louder. In my opinion, there's a pretty clear path forward, but only time will tell.
This isn't the last dose of Dawg Yawp in Cincinnati this summer. They are opening for Foxy Shazam lead signer Eric Nally on Fountain Square next month, so I'm looking forward to hearing how much they grow as performers in that time.
By: Derek Jung
I love the Cincinnati music community. I enjoy discovering and listening to local bands, attending shows at local venues, and I'm very proud to support the source of many of those discoveries, WNKU. The station, owned and subsidized by Northern Kentucky University since 2011, has been broadcasting since 1985. Through the years, it has cemented itself deep in the hearts of music and arts lovers all over the area. Earlier this year it was announced that NKU was selling the station to a religious broadcasting company, and the immediate feedback was overwhelming. A petition was created that, at the time of this publication, has amassed over 8,000 signatures. While the sale is still pending, the window of opportunity to listen to the station is closing. As proof of that, WNKU announced that its final in-studio performance would be with beloved local duo Dawg Yawp.
I entered the studio with a mix of excitement and sadness - excited for my first in studio performance at WNKU, but also sad that my first would also be my last. I had never been to the studio before, and I was surprised that it was basically in the same hallway as normal college classrooms. It wasn't exactly the location I was expecting, but nonetheless everyone was very friendly and welcoming. In the waiting room, there was free WNKU swag and CDs that they were giving away because they wouldn't have any more opportunities to do giveaways in the future. I picked up the great new albums from Iggy Pop and Jim James. Soon, we all shuffled into Studio 89, which was draped with lights and had a welcoming, relaxed vibe to it. Unfortunately today the melancholy was palpable and our DJ Liz Felix hardly made it through the introduction before getting teary eyed. We were delighted to hear the band play 7 songs from their new self titled album and a surprise Beatles cover by request of Felix to finish the set. In between songs, Liz interviewed the band and Tyler and Rob told stories about how some songs were written and how the band came into being. You could tell they felt honored to be there and Rob even got emotional while recounting what it was like hearing one of their songs for the first time on the radio (on WNKU no less).
The band's distinct sitar rock was of course well received by the couple dozen people in attendance. The station live streamed the entire performance on Facebook. I've embedded it below. You can also listen to the radio edit with better audio by clicking this link. It was a true honor to be there, and it will be a sad day in Cincinnati history when WNKU finally closes its doors.
By: Derek Jung
Acclaimed progressive folk singer-songwriter Ryley Walker returned to Cincinnati for the first time since his much talked about performance at Midpoint Music Festival in 2015 at Woodward Theater. Performing for a crowd of about 35 people, the trio wasted no time slipping into some long, heavy jams. Those jams would be the focus of the set, and the ebb and flow of each song relied heavily on the mood set by the intro jam. In that way, the night was spent covering the highlights from their latest release, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. I was very impressed to hear how their songs have evolved in a live setting to fill every nook and cranny of the audible spectrum. Songs like "The Halfwit In Me" were transformed by the jam into a wall of sound using guitar triplets from Walker and the second guitarist. The jazz-styled drumming led the way and I found myself mesmerized by his fluidity of playing. The chorus of "Roundabout" popped much more so than on the album version, and it highlighted the quiet/loud dynamics of the song structure. I was happy to hear that Ryley's dry humor translates well from his lyrics to his live personality as well. The band cracked a few jokes in between songs, and Ryley boasted his love for the giant Bearcat Pizzas from Adriatico's.
I was a little disappointed that their set was only around 45 minutes long, but with a smaller crowd on a Monday night, I don't blame them for keeping it short and sweet. Hopefully we will hear some new material from Ryley this year.
Check out a live performance of "The Halfwit In Me" from the World Cafe below.
By: Derek Jung
Celebrating their debut full length debut release, Dawg Yawp took the stage at MOTR Pub a little after 11 on a comfortable fall Friday evening in downtown Cincinnati. The reasonably small bar was packed to capacity for one of the most hyped new bands in the city, and one that's also has been receiving notice from NPR's Bob Boilen amongst others. I've been following the band since I saw them perform during an intermission at MusicNOW Festival this year, and their performance this summer at Bunbury was one of our favorites of the early afternoon acts.
The band performed pretty much every song off the new album, many of which were teased on their EP Two Hearted earlier this year. Tyler Randall's sitar playing was just what the shoulder to shoulder crowd needed. It was hot, stuffy, and sweaty in there, and songs like "Lost At Sea" conjured up images of traversing seas of sand in the deserts of northwestern India. It was a special atmosphere and the excitement was palpable from both the band and those gathered to see them.
Since it's only the duo on stage, songs like "Can't Think" and "Dawg", which have electric guitars and percussion, take new forms live. Guitarist Rob Keenan spends much of his time on a sound board, pressing buttons that hold sound samples for each instrument that can't be played live. On one hand, it's unique and different, but on the other it's a little boring to watch him press buttons. While their gracious nature evokes a lot of good will from the crowd, especially in Cincinnati, I want to see them work on their showmanship, and I think - unpopular opinion time - that having live backing musicians would be a fantastic addition to their set and give them the freedom to expand their songwriting moving forward.
All things considered, it was a great showcase of the album, and they have a bright, successful future ahead of them.
Check out a live performance of "Can't Think" from WNKU's Studio 89 below.
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: