By: Derek Jung
Nearly a year after they last played Madison Theater, Shovels & Rope made their return to my beloved Covington, Kentucky music venue for another go around. As I mentioned in that review, Shovels & Rope and I go back before their first album was released, and the band has always had a soft spot in my heart. This show, however, was anything but a triumphant return for the band, and it was a rare weak moment in the five times that I've seen them perform.
When we entered the theater, it became immediately apparent that the heat was entirely too high, and the near capacity crowd did not help matters whatsoever. We found our spot in the crowd and listened to opener John Moreland's set, which was absolutely fantastic. His gritty voice and melancholy lyrics blended perfectly. By the end of his set, he left the stage to rousing applause, and I'm certain that the crowd wouldn't have complained if he'd played longer. I will definitely be checking out his set at Forecastle this summer.
Shovels & Rope took the stage a bit later and charged through songs from their last two albums Little Seeds and Swimmin' Time. From the first note it was obvious that the mix was terrible. The bass drum was so overpowered that it hurt my ears through my musician grade earplugs. Michael Trent's electric guitar was also too loud in the mix, and the combination of the two ruined the new, more rock driven songs. When they finally played something from their debut full length, O' Be Joyful, it was almost too late to save the set for us.
I know Shovels & Rope. I know what they normally sound like. So I'm mostly willing to write this night off as a bad stop on the tour, but I will say that I was not a big fan of the band's most recent release, Little Seeds. I wish they would return to the folk americana sounds of O' Be Joyful, but I also understand that the band's growing success has happened with the newer sound. So, until next time, my friends.
Check out a video of them playing "I Know" on Conan below.
By: Derek Jung
Despite having no new material since their 2013 album Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man is back on the road and looking as good as ever. Known for their powerful, energetic live shows, the band brought the house down at Madison Theater, but not before giving a shout out to former Cincinnati/Covington venue The Mad Hatter. Despite the lack of new material, it did not look to have a large effect on the size of the crowd that came out on a chilly November weekday.
Having never seen them before, I was immediately surprised at the show dynamics. First, the stand up comedian Adam Tod Brown was the first opener. While his act is relatively low brow humor, it was a something to witness before an indie rock band. But wait! He wasn't the only opener. After a quick DJ set by the band's hype man (we'll return to this in a bit), German rapper Casper came out and performed a unexpectedly wild set. So let's quickly recap up to this point. We've had a stand up comedian, a DJ set, and a foreign rapper open up for an indie rock band. Totally bizarre.
After all of that was finished, the hype man returned to the stage to introduce Portugal. The Man. He then proceeded to stay on stage the entire set and interject various "put your hands up" or "make some fucking noise" or [insert pump up phrase here]. It was the cherry on top of one of the strangest shows I've seen for what I came into thinking would be a fairly straight forward set. With all of that static, the question remains. How was the band?
In short, pretty darn great. The performance was tight. Nothing seemed stale or overplayed. In fact, the band was noticeably having a good time. At one point towards the end of the set, the band's manager(?) ran on stage and shoved mushroom-laden chocolate straight into each band member's mouth. Like I said, bizarre! The on stage banter was pretty light, thus the need for the hype man to interact with the crowd, but I didn't feel like anything was lost from it. All in all it was an enjoyable set. The band had a great mash up of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" with "Purple Yellow Red Blue" as well as an Always Sunny in Philadelphia reference of "Dayman Song" as the intro to "So American". It was so cool I posted a video of it below. John Baldwin Gourley's vocals are surprisingly on point to where it sounds on the record. I'm looking forward to hearing some new material from them. Hopefully this coming year.
Watch the band play "So American" and "People Say" on KEXP from 2013 below. Again, the Always Sunny reference in the intro is amazing.
By: Derek Jung
As with any election season, many celebrities and bands have voiced their opinions for any who are willing to listen. The National have, throughout their career, been very vocal supporters of Democratic candidates. Four years ago, they played a "Get Out The Vote" concert in support of President Obama's reelection campaign at the historic Emery Theatre in downtown Cincinnati, and eight years ago they played on Fountain Square for the same cause. This year, they returned in support of Hillary Clinton at Washington Park.
Despite little advertising outside of their social media pages, a moderately large crowd gathered on an unseasonably warm November evening in Cincinnati. After a few speeches in support of the Democratic platform, including one by National Treasure and Hangover star Justin Bartha, The National took the stage to a surprisingly less than enthusiastic crowd. In fact, this was a theme throughout the show - a general lack of energy and excitement for a free show from one of the biggest indie rock acts in the world. Frankly, it was a little disappointing.
The band played well though, despite having muted guitars in the sound mix. Since they haven't released any new material since 2013's Trouble Will Find Me, their setlist was pretty standard. I was particularly excited that they played "About Today" from 2004's Cherry Tree EP; it's one of my favorite live compositions by the band and always a thrill to experience the slow build and glorious finale. Part of me was hoping for "Peggy-O" or "Morning Dew" from their fantastic Grateful Dead covers box set Day of the Dead that was released earlier this year, but no such luck was had. Lead singer Matt Berninger was light of the political discourse during the set, but jokingly tried to make connections with some of the song titles. While some would argue that there isn't much hope left in this election, I have hope for a new National album in 2017.
Check out the full setlist below and watch a local news segment on the concert. Yours truly makes an appearance in a plaid shirt around 1:24.
Don't Swallow the Cap
Sea of Love
I Need My Girl
This Is the Last Time
By: Joseph Kathmann
It's hard to put into words what I just saw, but whatever it was I liked it. I liked it a lot. This show was an absolute blast to watch, featuring one of the most energetic and passionate crowds I have ever seen. Everyone was dressed up and having the time of their lives. Even though I suspect that a large portion of the crowd were not die-hard Here Come the Mummies fans, this crowd simply just loved music, and it set a new standard for what I hope to see from a crowd at any show going forward.
Opening for Here Come the Mummies was Japanese punk band Peelander-Z. This was a very odd choice for Here Come the Mummies, but it was also a sign of just how good this crowd was going to be. I'm sure none of them came to this show expecting to hear Japanese punk music, but the band was able to get them into their show nonetheless. There were some really weird antics throughout this 45 minute set, featuring a lot of signs, what appeared to be bringing random people from the audience on stage to play drums and guitar, and a flash dance party in the middle of the crowd. I wasn't too particularly keen on this set, particularly when their final song felt like it took about 10 minutes to end. I kid you not, their "big rock ending" to their set lasted 10 minutes. It was certainly a bit much, but the crowd didn't mind.
Following an awesome costume contest that featured some trees, (with lights) The Dude, and Colonel Sanders with a big bucket of chicken, Here Come the Mummies took the stage. Featuring their trademarked mummy garbs, the band began their set in unique fashion with a drum intro and march through the crowd similar to a marching band as everyone in the band had on various percussion instruments. The band opened with "My Party" and never looked back, tearing through a ridiculous 2+ hour set. The band had antics all throughout the show, and their antics reminded me of my days in college marching band and pep band, (hooooo!) so I was having a blast along with everyone else. The crowd was electric, dancing and groove through every moment of the 20+ songs. Sure, the songs are pretty shallow and nearly every one has to do with sex, but the crowd didn't care. Watching Colonel Sanders dance with his bucket of chicken was awesome, and even the trees were getting into it. I don't think I've ever seen trees move that much.
Ultimately, this was one of the coolest sets I have ever seen. This set was the kind of set I dreamed about coming to Nashville, and while there were definitely a fair amount of external factors that impacted and raised the overall vibe of this show, but the explosiveness and intensity of Here Come the Mummies was pivotal as well. I definitely want to see these guys again to see just how much of a role these external factors played, but as is this set is right there with Prophets of Rage for my favorite set during my time here in Nashville.
Check out a video of "Ra Ra Ra" below.
By: Joseph Kathmann
On a cold southern night in a tiny, packed, venue, Nothing But Thieves followed up their strong Lollapalooza set (which I called one of my favorite sets of the festival) with another gem. I cannot emphasize this enough: go out and see them right now. You will not get the chance to see them at a tiny club like Exit/In for much longer. The vibe of this small venue definitely helped to feed the energy of the band too.
First, though, was The Wreks. There was another opener, The Roads Below, but unfortunately I missed them because I showed up 25 minutes late and they only had a 20 minute set. While it was tough to really get a feel for The Wreks because they themselves only played for about 25 minutes, they did everything they could to convert some new fans in that short span. I think they did, because here's one person who wants to see them again. They clearly threw a lot of ideas against the wall, and while not all of those ideas stuck, the ones that did were quite impressive. I hope to see them again soon.
Then came Nothing But Thieves. They exploded through the gates with my favorite song of their namesake debut album, "Itch," and kept the intensity going through most of their short 55 minute set. However notice I said most there. There was one misstep in the exact middle of the set. During this brief 3 or 4 song interlude, the band slouched through a couple of their weaker deep tracks, and also trotted out a new song that took everything that made their debut album so great, and did the exact opposite. This new song was easily the low point of the show, but I am not at all worried about what this means long term. Because the rest of their set was just that good. Highlighted by their hit "Trip Switch" as well as "Painkiller," Nothing But Thieves successfully reminded me why I am so confident in their future. They were even able to turn one of my least favorite songs on their debut, "If I Get High," into a great and emotional ballad toward the end of the set. They may still only have one album to their name, but the quality of their music and already-refined live show makes them poised to take the music world by storm in short order. Check them out now before they're forced to play at larger venues.
2) Honey Whiskey
5) Graveyard Wedding
6) Drawing Pins
7) Six Billion
8) New Song (unknown name)
10) Excuse Me
11) Wake Up Call
12) If I Get High
13) Trip Switch
14) Ban All the Music
If you need more convincing, check out Nothing But Thieves performance of "Trip Switch" 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.
By: Derek Jung
Kevin Barnes and gang have kept their touring regiment fairly consistent over their first twenty years of existence. Since I started following them five or so years ago, the band has made a yearly stop in Cincinnati to play. When I first saw them in 2012, it was at Madison Theater. Year by year though, their crowd has shrunk, and because of this, their past two visits have been at Woodward Theater, which is much smaller. But while the theaters have gotten smaller, the energy and theatrics of their live show are just as wild and sexually charged as ever.
Touring on their most recent release, Innocence Reaches, the band swept through two hours of songs from that album, Skeletal Lamping, as well as some from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. The thing that I've always liked about of Montreal is they transition from one song to another seamlessly. There are no breaks for water, tuning, or new instruments. If a band member needs to tune up or, in Barnes' case, change outfits, they just do it. There's always so much action going on between the music and the staged skits that it's hardly noticeable.
Speaking of the stage skits, the band is on a much lower budget than they were in years past, but they're still amusing and wildly sexual. Barnes himself often portrays female characters, blending his gender identity, and tonight was no different. Skit performers in skin suits with nipples painted on them danced around stage and with Barnes. Another actor later came on stage in a giant inflatable penis outfit wearing a Donald Trump mask. It's bizarre, intriguing, and sometimes hilarious. A few more memorable moments were when a two person possum costume (think a horse costume where one person is the head and another is the rear) fully equipped with blinking eyes and a movable mouth danced about on stage. This was followed by two actors dancing on stage with leaf blowers that had pouches that looked too similar to testicles to ignore the fact that when they blew feathers into the crowd, it was basically like them ejaculating. These skits are the highlight of the show for me, and why I invite friends to attend at least one of their shows, even if they don't enjoy the music.
Keep on being you, of Montreal.
By: Derek Jung
Andrew Bird, the acclaimed Chicago violinist, whistler, and indie darling, is deep into the touring cycle for his latest release, Are You Serious, an album we reviewed a few months back. The last time Bird was in the Cincinnati area, he was headlining Midpoint Music Festival in 2012. This time, he was across the river in Covington, KY at Madison Theater. The theater, currently undergoing some renovations that left two of the three levels bare and without carpet, was in stark contrast to his packed 2012 set in beautiful Washington Park for MPMF. As show time approached and the theater was not filling up like I expected, I wondered if the condition of the theater would be an ominous omen to what the show would be like. Unfortunately, the omen partially came true, but Bird and gang gave those who were there a solid performance.
I was surprised to see that Bird's backing band was completely different from the musicians that joined him in 2012, and their style was much more indie rock than the folk/country band that previously supported him. This made sense because Are You Serious is a more rock-centric album than Break It Yourself was. There was certainly much to enjoy during his nearly two hour set. The band opened with a cover of Alice Coltraine's "Journey in Satchidananda" and transitioned straight into "Capsized", the lead single from the album. I was immediately struck by how quickly the song comes alive with its jazzy drumming and rousing chorus.
Bird's looping is still the most fascinating part of his set. He crafts the backbone of the songs perfectly, layering one after the other on single takes. By the time the song actually begins, the song is so full sounding you'd think there are ten people on stage instead of four. His whistling was once again a marvel to hear live; it's so precise and the vibrato is amazing.
Most of the songs from Are You Serious sounded great live, with the lone exception of the Fiona Apple duet "Left Handed Kisses". Obviously Fiona Apple isn't touring with Bird, so he had to take both vocal parts. The conversation from the song gets a little lost in translation when both sides are coming from the same person. I think it would be a good idea if one of Bird's bandmates took the other half of the duet. Even though Bird played it off humorously, having an actual duet would give the song more coherency. Another surprising cover was Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" to open the encore. I'm not sure about perfect, but it was certainly a pretty great night.
Check out Are You Serious on Spotify.
Check out a crowd shot from the show of the title track "Are You Serious" below.
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
By: Derek Jung
After hearing the utterly disappointing new album, Junk, I was less excited to see M83 live, especially after paying $40+ dollars for tickets only to find out I'd be seeing them in July at Lollapalooza. Nonetheless, I was at Bogart's Tuesday night for the near capacity show. Let's just say that I am so glad I went. Anthony Gonzalez, having over five albums under his belt, finally broke out with one of my favorite albums of 2011, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. That album was still a heavy staple of his live show, and it hasn't dulled a bit in the five years since its release.
I've never watched any live M83 clips on the internet besides when he appeared on late night tv shows, so I didn't know if he would have a full backing band. Opener Bob Moses didn't encourage me. The duo, one pressing play on the same repetitive beats for 45 minutes and the other singing over layers of effects and reverb and hardly playing a guitar, were so incredibly forgettable. Thankfully, M83 arrived with four backing band members. The energy of the band is phenomenal. Gonzalez's presence was authoritatively professional, commanding attention as the front man but still leaving plenty of room for the other members to shine. Guitarist/bassist Jordan Lawlor thrashed about the stage during the frequent jams, directing wave after wave of sound forward into a crowd that soaked up every beat. The light show was fantastic and perfectly complimented each song. Anthony's vocals echoed throughout the hall, soaked in the precise amount of effects to match the sound of the album, and Keyboardist Kaela Sinclair filled the roles of Mai Lan on "Go!" and Susanne Sundfør for "Oblivion", the latter of which I highly recommend experiencing live. In fact, I think I enjoyed the songs that she sang lead more than those that Anthony sang, but honestly they were both great.
Besides a few cheers of "Cincinnati!", Anthony didn't banter with the audience much, but instead packed as many songs as he could into the 75 minute set. I'm not complaining.
Bogart's has a few videos up on their Facebook page. One for Reunion and another for Midnight City.
I will definitely be checking them out again at Lollapalooza this July.
Do It, Try It
We Own The Sky
Bibi the Dog
Echoes of Mine
Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun
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: