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
After missing the previous three years, it was nice to finally return to the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, KY for another round of Forecastle. 2013's edition was my first music festival ever, and the experience that I had there set the bar for three day marathon-style music festivals that I've attended ever since. Yes, the musical landscape has changed quite a bit even in those few years, but what I found was that the essence of Forecastle was still in great shape, even with the negative vibes that the EDM/rave culture brought to two of the stages during the festival. Below I've highlighted some of the good, the bad, and the ugly from this year's beautiful Forecastle Festival. Welcome aboard, reader.
After what was reported as an uncharacteristically rough performance at Pitchfork Festival in Chicago the night before, James Murphy and crew brought their A Game to their Saturday headlining slot on the riverfront. For an hour and fifty minutes, the field of festival goers were dancing and grooving to the band's signature sound. Between last year's headlining set at Lollapalooza and this one, the setlist was very similar, save for the addition of the two new singles from their impending new album. "Call The Police" was especially poignant, it's driving repeated riff climaxing to Murphy's exclamatory outro chorus. As always, it was a wondrous experience to see tens of thousands of people dancing together, specifically during "Dance Yrself Clean" and my personal highlight, "All My Friends".
The band also performed what Murphy admitted was their first festival encore ever, so that was a nice little piece of history to witness. I have a feeling, however, that it was unintentional. They left the stage exactly at 11, but their set was scheduled until 11:20. Nontheless, it was a great set and my favorite of the entire weekend.
Yr City's a Sucker
Daft Pink Is Playing at My House
I Can Change
You Wanted a Hit
Call The Police
New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Seeing a cancer free Charles Bradley smiling at a field of hot, sweaty, Sunday afternoon festival goers was immediately one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Since I saw him last at Bunbury 2016, Bradley underwent treatment for stomach cancer and had to cancel a number of tour dates in the process. But the 68 year old, nicknamed the "Screaming Eagle" for a reason, brought the soul to the waterfront, and his energy woke all of us from our heat-induced slumbers. At his age, he's still incredible mobile, and twice jumped down from the stage to sing and dance. After his rousing cover of the Ozzy Osbourne classic "Changes", he brought a dozen roses and handed them out to the crowd. A little girl on her dad's shoulders in front us got one of the roses, and everyone around her gave her high fives. The smile on her face said it all. That's a moment she'll remember for a long time, and is exactly the good vibes that I've come to expect from the festival.
Perhaps the most intimate performance of the weekend took place on the small Port stage, which was situated across a small docking area to the right of the main stage. John Moreland, a singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, took the stage in the late afternoon on Friday. I had seen Moreland open for Shovels & Rope earlier this year, and immediately fell in love with his hard cutting, deeply personal lyricism and his gravelly, Springsteen-esque voice. Seeing Moreland at the festival was a last second decision for us. His time slot was one of the biggest conflicts of the weekend; Capital Cities lined up with all but 15 minutes of his set and Cage The Elephant started on the main stage a half hour before he ended. Despite all of that, once we arrived on the sparsely populated lawn, there was no leaving him. With little fanfare and only he and an accompanying guitarist to his right, Moreland dove into his new record, the fantastic Big Bad Luv, as well as a number of songs off his older records. It was a perfect setting as the sun slowly set under the Ohio River.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Run The Jewels
RTJ, the hip hop duo consisting of Killer Mike and El-P, was one of my most anticipated sets of the festival. Unfortunately for me, the mix was one of the worst of the weekend. Now, maybe this is just Grandpa Derek rambling here, but the bass and low end was so loud that it was drowning out a lot of the rapping, especially Killer Mike. What's the point if you can't hear the rapping?
I enjoyed everything else about their set. Their stage presence was great, the crowd interactions were hilarious, and I have nothing else bad to say about them. But the bass-heavy mix completely ruined it for me. Joseph and I are probably going to catch them in a few weeks at Lollapalooza. Hopefully they have things balanced a little better there, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out sounding like Bastille last year.
Judah & The Lion
For the most part, there weren't many bad sets this year, which is a great sign that they're doing things right on the riverfront. The worst performance of the weekend was definitely from Judah & The Lion, although I suppose I should give them credit for living up to the name of their album Folk Hop N' Roll. But it was that lack of identity that really turned me off of the band's show. Much of the new album is very poppy - pop hooks, pop lyrics, pop sensibilities. Their show, however, tried a little too hard to be like X Ambassadors, and it felt forced and uncharacteristic for a group whose first two albums were mostly folk/americana. Come on, fellas. No need to be what you're not for the sake of a paycheck.
Weezer's cover of "Hey Ya" - Outkast
The Party Cove Stage
For a band with such great potential, lead singer Sam France continues to derail their live performances with his on stage antics and unstable performances. After seeing them twice, I'm still not sure who he's trying to emulate, but it's perhaps best described as a less talented Mick Jagger on methamphetamine. Despite France's best efforts to attract all of the attention to himself by yelling nonsense and being the most distracting lead singer I've ever seen, the rest of the band's performance was pretty great. That only makes his meltdowns even more disappointing. The saddest part is that as the band's material has gotten more ambitious, on Hang especially, the level of France's outrageous behavior has, as they say, gone to 11. And I make that last statement in the worst light possible. He was dressed in white face at Forecastle.
Until France gets himself under control, Foxygen live is a hard pass from me.
All in all, it was another great showing for the Louisville mainstay. Most of the changes since my last visit in 2013 were positive, especially moving the smallest stage to its current location. I'm still advocating for them to limit the amount of EDM/Rave culture that they allow into the festival, because it brings the most negative crowd of hormonal teenagers who just want to get high and fuck. For a good vibes festival like Forecastle, the two don't mix, and there are plenty of other festivals where that crowd can blow their loads, literally and figuratively. But unfortunately, I am also well aware of the economics involved. EDM is where the money is at the moment, and the festival needs to make a profit to survive. All that being said, Forecastle has done well to balance the good with the necessary evils, and I look forward to my next trip to the waterfront.
By: Joseph Kathmann
Let's address the elephant in the room first: yes, I like Avenged Sevenfold. While the band has tapered off significantly in my opinion on their last two albums, The Stage and Hail to the King, there was a time back in the 2000s when the group was on top of the rock 'n' roll world for me, churning out hits from classic LPs like Waking the Fallen and 2005's City of Evil. The latter got me into Avenged Sevenfold initially, and is one of my favorite albums from that decade. I have many personal memories connected with the band's music, from jamming out to them on break while working the Kings Island Halloween Haunt back in 2008 to having a blast with the instrumentation on various iterations of Rock Band. Unfortunately for me, the feeling of nostalgia has not caught up to the band just yet.
Before we get to the crap shoot that was Avenged Sevenfold, let's talk about the opener, Volbeat. I knew very little about the band going into their set other than the fact that they are far more relevant in the metal world today than Avenged Sevenfold is. It showed-there were almost as many Volbeat shirts in the audience as there were Avenged Sevenfold shirts, and many of those Volbeat shirts disappeared after their set. (I can't hardly blame them either) While I dug their interesting mix of Irish punk music and heavy metal, and could (mostly) appreciate the vocals of frontman Michael Poulsen, the band was otherwise pretty lifeless. It may have been the timing-the band is right in the middle of a massive, nation-wide tour with Avenged Sevenfold, and the Cincy date probably felt tacked on to them because the other band on the tour, Metallica, had to skip out on the date because of Rock on the Range's proximity clause. Regardless, the band's lack of energy combined with a similarity in most of their music made every song in this set sound pretty much the same to me. They had an extended set, too, (because of Metallica's absence) so when their hour long set was done, I was ready to move on. Unfortunately, it proved to be the highlight of the night.
I was hopeful that I was going to have a fun, nostalgia-filled set going into this show. I did lower my expectations significantly when I checked the setlist and saw a total of 3 to 4 songs from their glory years, and tonight proved to be no different: almost the entire set consisted of tracks off their recent albums. I don't mind hearing new material-if a band's on tour to promote a new album, they're going to promote it. But do we really need 11 tracks off your two most recent albums? There were several times, particularly towards the end of the set when the band forced the last two tracks off Hail to the King down our throats, that the crowd was bored out of their minds. The talking around me was louder than the music, which is saying something because it was a freaking metal show. The last two songs were a complete waste of time, time that could've been spent playing tracks their fans actually wanted to hear. And that doesn't even include the totally unnecessary "drum solo" and instrumental jam that took up 10+ minutes of the band's 80 minute set. Seriously? Why waste time on a drum solo when you have seven studio albums under your belt?
The band seems to be in cruise control right now, outside of guitarist Synyster Gates, (who is still an absolute boss and can rip any guitar to shreds) which is a shame because most of these guys are still in their mid-30s. A good example of this lack of care for basically anything occurred during "So Far Away." The band has made that song the tribute song for The Rev, and during the song the band had pictures of the great drummer on the video screen behind them. Touching, right? Until the slideshow looped after exactly five photos. Really, guys? That's all you could muster up? Five photos of The Rev? I guess cameras weren't invented until 2010. Of course this made the slideshow feel half-assed as it looped 45 times during the song. Overall, though, the problems seem to really fall on vocalist M. Shadows. Undeniably the weakest part of the band, Shadows spent most of the set pulling a Jared Leto and having the crowd sing most of his parts. Why is this even a thing? I'm all for audience participation every once in a while from the vocalist, but we paid money to hear you sing, not us. All of this would've probably been forgiven had the song selection been better, but outside of some of their classic singles, which still sound good today because of how young the band is, the set was a frustrating snooze-fest. The dude next to me, who pounded almost 100 ounces of beer in the span of two hours, was more entertaining than Avenged Sevenfold. (Hopefully he's ok....he was obviously stumbling pretty good by the end of the night.) Only in the encore, which featured a personal favorite in "Bat Country" then a rendition of another strong tune "A Little Piece of Heaven," did the band sound like the Avenged Sevenfold I was hoping to see. (There was also a hilariously staged proposal in there but whatever, that's irrelevant) It looks like we still have a few more years until the band realizes that their golden years are behind them and embraces that fact versus trying to fight it. For now, though, avoid this show like the plague. Not even an over-the-hill Metallica could save it.
Hail to the King
So Far Away
Warmness on the Soul (Instrumental Jam)
A Little Piece of Heaven
By: Derek Jung
I was, admittedly, late to discover Jason Isbell. His former band, The Drive-By Truckers, had played Madison Theater in 2013 while I was interning, but Isbell had already departed 6 years prior and I was unable to attend the show. Fast forward 3 years and I stumbled across Isbell's last album, Something More Than Free, and was immediately hooked by his vivid, personal storytelling, rich vocals, and intimate songwriting. Under his own name, Something More Than Free and its predecessor Southeastern were hailed as masterpieces and helped Isbell reach a broader audience. Before this, however, he also had 2 albums under the 400 Unit name. The newest album, The Nashville Sound, is the first under the 400 Unit name since 2011's Here We Rest. So much has happened in Isbell's life since then - marriage, sobriety, fatherhood - that Isbell is a completely new person. Luckily for us, his gifts as a songwriter have only grown.
After a solid opening set from The Mountain Goats, Isbell and crew took the stage at the mostly full PNC Pavilion. The band covered the vast majority of The Nashville Sound, playing seven of the album's ten tracks mixed with material from the previously mentioned non-400 Unit albums. Isbell's vocals are just as moving live as they are on the album, and his guitar playing was surprisingly stellar. His on stage banter was great, telling stories and jokes in between songs and introducing those in the 400 Unit. But it was his interactions with fiddle player Amanda Shires, his wife, that caught my attention the most. I'm not sure if this is just a stage act, but it was as if he was singing every love song directly at her and for her. It was intimate and beautiful, and their rendition of "Cover Me Up" captured everything that I wanted to experience in a single song. It was a magical musical moment.
The band ended their set with "Whipping Post", a tribute to the late Duane Allman, who passed away in late May of this year. Being one of my favorite Allman Brothers songs, I was thrilled to hear Isbell's take on the southern rock classic, and he did not disappoint.
Check out the band's performance of "Hope The High Road" from The Late Show below.
Hope The High Road
Decoration Day (Drive-By Truckers cover)
White Man's World
Chaos and Clothes
The Life You Chose
Last Of My Kind
Flying Over Water
Cover Me Up
If It Takes a Lifetime
Outfit (Drive-By Truckers cover)
If We Were Vampires
Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
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: