By: Joseph Kathmann
My partner-in-crime Derek is in Ireland right now, so that means you're stuck with me as we talk about our latest adventure with Foo Fighters. While (obviously) nothing will compare with our once-in-a-lifetime experience with Foo Fighters at the Metro during Lolla, I still went into this set excited to hear what Foo Fighters sounds like in the arena world they've been forced to inhabit. Of course, they didn't disappoint.
First up, though, was The Struts. A (supposedly) sold-out US Bank Arena slowly filled in and the sleepy crowd was greeted by the hard-rocking, head-bobbing 80s-esque rock group, but few seemed to be really turned on by their sound. Which is a real shame: I've been a fan of the group since they toured the festival circuit last year (I last saw them at Pilgrimage 2016) but their sound is just not meant for an arena the size of US Bank. The lifeless crowd didn't help much, either, despite the bands desperate pleas to get up and move, they stayed largely still in anticipation for the headliner. I don't know if it's because of the cross-genre appeal of FF, but this crowd was not the best of crowds by any means. And, while it was great to hear some of their great hits like "Kiss This" and "Could Have Been Me" again, their set remains almost identical to what we saw last year, right down to their on-stage banter. While I do look forward to some new material from the group, and will enjoy seeing them again at that point.....I have no plans of seeing this group again until then.
Finally, though, came FF. The biggest rock group in the world took the stage and tore through a 27 song set that lasted nearly 3 hours. It's hard to believe this band performs at the level of intensity they do for 3 hours night in and night out, but the band's endurance is so absurd they were outlasting a vast majority of the crowd as the set went on. But what a set it was. While it was eerily similar to our Metro set, (they even played the same Tom Petty cover in Cincy as they did a few months earlier....though they did play that song this time around to commemorate Tom Petty's birthday) and the banter, aka Dave Grohl telling the crowd they were going to be there all night, was similar.....it still felt organic. Maybe it's the fact that the band has been touring for 20+ years together, or maybe its because they're one of the best live acts the music industry has ever seen, but it never really bothered me that this set was so similar to what we got in Chicago. I still loved every second of it, and it sure seemed like the band did too. The set featured only a few songs from the latest album (the crowd seemed very disinterested in these songs) and leaned heavily on the band's massive list of hits and singles. Front man Dave Grohl even got a little cheeky with the audience right before the encore, inviting one of the cameramen backstage and toying with the crowd about how many more songs they were going to play. The band sounds great anywhere, and even though they definitely sounded better in Chicago, it was still a blast to see them again here in Cincy, and I can't wait to see them again. There is no bigger rock band in the world than Foo Fighters, and it is awesome to see this group while they are still at the height of their prime. If you haven't seen these guys yet, take it from us and put them on your bucket list. It's more than worth it.
You can check out a setlist of their Cincinnati performance here, and check out a live performance of two of their new songs, "Run" and "The Sky is a Neighborhood," below.
By: Derek Jung
DEREK: Joseph and I have been avid followers of The Church of Joshua Homme for as long as we can remember. Our love affair with Queens of the Stone Age dates back to when our adolescent musical tastes were just starting to grow, and it hasn't lessened for any album, lineup iteration, or side project that Homme has thrown at us. The band's latest album, Villains, was a banger, and we were excited to hear the songs performed live.
This was probably the tightest I've ever seen the band live. Every member was in perfect sync, playing off of each others' grooves and licks, and Homme, albeit visibly intoxicated, was really enjoying himself. There have been a lot of rumors swirling around about his mental state, but hopefully chainsmoking, boozing, and badassery are his only vices. All that being said, he looked in prime form on Tuesday.
The band focused mostly on Villains and their previous album, ...Like Clockwork. I was pleasantly surprised to hear "I Appear Missing", which I was disappointed they didn't play the last time I saw them, and the one-two-three punch of "Head Like a Haunted House" -> "I Appear Missing" -> "Villains of Circumstance" was one of my favorite moments of the show. It was the perfect amount of insanity, jamming, and psychedelic stoner rock.
I'll go ahead and omit the fine, but otherwise run of the mill opening set from Royal Blood. Seeing them for the first time on this album cycle at Lollapalooza was great, but seeing the same thing twice from a band that relies so much on riffs and British swagger, it was extremely boring.
Queens are touring through the middle of next year, so there are still plenty of opportunities to see them.
JOSEPH: I don't have a whole lot to add here. Derek and I feel pretty similar about QOTSA and go way back with the band. I just wanted to bring up that I feel like Joshua Homme is one of the last true rockstars of our time. Derek put it lightly relating to Homme's intoxication. He was wasted, like the rockstars of old. Yet he was at the top of his game. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. I also agree with Derek on Royal Blood. This was the third time I've seen the band on this tour, and even though I'm the resident riff rock lover between us, I couldn't help getting bored seeing the exact same set for a third time. Hopefully they start to add some spontaneity to their set as they continue to develop. But when it's all said and done.....go see QOTSA if you can. It's worth it.
Go With the Flow
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
Feet Don't Fail me
My God Is the Sun
The Evil Has Landed
No One Knows
Make It Wit Chu
Leg of Lamb
Head Like a Haunted House
I Appear Missing
Villains of Circumstance
If I Had a Tail
I Sat by the Ocean
The Way You Used to Do
A Song for the Dead
By: Derek Jung
Nestled in a quaint park amphitheater on the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio, David Shaw's Big River Get Down has put together one of the better single day festivals in the area. Shaw, lead singer of The Revivalists and Hamilton native, assembled an eclectic, good vibes focused lineup that delivered from top to bottom. Coupled with great weather and a crowd eager to soak up the sun and enjoy a day of music in an otherwise quiet town, The Get Down was a huge success.
Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band
Ironically only featuring three members, Peyton's energy, enthusiasm, and monster beard makes up for what the band lacks in size and, frankly, a vocalist. With slick slide guitar, smooth blues licks, and a hypnotizing rhythmic sound, Peyton and company commanded the stage for their 45 minute set. I found myself constantly watching Breezy, whose instrument is scratching a washboard.
Yes, this is a band from the 21st century.
Set highlights "Something for Nothing" and "Clap Your Hands" are worth the price of admission alone. Don't miss out on seeing The Rev if he comes around again.
The Marcus King Band
I missed seeing Marcus King earlier this year at 20th Century Theater because of a snow storm, so seeing he was playing The Big River Get Down was icing on the cake when I went to purchase tickets. The 21 year old blues guitarist has been playing live for a good portion of his life already, and being associated with legends like Warren Hayes certainly hasn't hurt his young career. Similar to Hayes, King's southern blues style bring back memories of The Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule. With accompanying horns and keys, King's guitar playing didn't take the spotlight quite as much as I would have liked, but there's no denying the kid's talent and passion for the blues. I'm really looking forward to hearing how his sound evolves, because there are certainly some growing pains involved. (His voice being one of them) But I have high hopes.
The Record Company
Seeing them open for My Morning Jacket earlier this year was a revolution for me. I'd heard their single, "Rita Mae Young" on local radio, but never thought they'd rock as much as they do. These three guys bring the hard pounding throwback southern blues rock riffs, a little twang, a little harmonica, and top it off with a dash of slide guitar. The resulting rock 'n' roll sundae is enough to fill the appetite of even the hungriest rocker out there.
Some would argue that The Record Company isn't bringing anything new to the genre, which is probably true, but why mess with a formula that's been so successful for so long. There's no denying that what the band's doing here sounds just as fresh as it did when Muddy Waters pioneered the genre in the 50's and 60's.
By: Derek Jung
So many Lollapalooza attendees expect to witness a #LollaMoment, a special cameo or performance from a band that will go down as a unique, memorable piece of festival history. These moments are unpredictable, and people wait through entire sets to witness anything at all, oftentimes walking away disappointed when nothing of significance happens. There are, however, rare occasions where a #LollaMoment is all but guaranteed, and Foo Fighters playing an intimate club show is one of those occasions. The band wasn't even booked at the adjoining festival, but announced an after show less than a week before the festival occurred. The ~1,000 available tickets sold out in less than an hour, and by the time Joseph and I arrived at the venue at 9:15, 15 minutes prior to the doors opening, the line stretched down and around the block. The excitement was palpable for everyone, and those without tickets were offering hundreds of dollars to anyone willing to sell their guest ticket.
It's quite the feeling being less than 30 feet from the stage to see one of the biggest bands of the last two decades. By the time the show started a little after 11, we were packed in like sardines, but that didn't prevent us from yelling and cheering at the top of our lungs. What proceeded is what I can only call "legen-wait for it-DARY". 3 hours and 30 plus minutes of non-stop, in your face, rock n roll. Perry Ferrell, lead singer of Jane's Addiction and founder of Lollapalooza appeared for a cover of "Mountain Song". David Bowie's guitarist was in the balcony and the band paid tribute to him, as was Dave Grohl's cousin who inspired him to get into punk music. The Foos also played 5 tracks off of their upcoming album, Concrete and Gold, and a wide range of different covers from AC/DC and Queen, to The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. It was, quite frankly, the best show I have ever seen.
The band is gearing up for an extensive world tour supporting Concrete and Gold. We'll be seeing them again in October, but we highly doubt it will come close to matching this one.
All My Life
Times Like These
The Sky Is a Neighborhood
Something From Nothing
Cold Day in the Sun
La Dee Da
Skin and Bones
Mountain Sound (Jane's Addiction cover w/ Perry Farrell)
This Is a Call
I'll Stick Around
Miss You (The Rollings Stones cover)
Under Pressure (Queen cover)
Stay With Me (Faces cover)
Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)
Best of You
Let There Be Rock (AC/DC cover)
By: Derek Jung
There's something about the My Morning Jacket live experience for me that's always transcended the typical, everyday show. Jim James and company evoke this otherworldly, almost god-like presence that, despite my reservations to use this comparison, The Grateful Dead and Phish captured perfectly - jam bands that have such a cult following that scores upon scores of fans travel the length of each tour, meticulously cataloging every set list, cover, and live performance for future use. Such was the case at PNC Pavilion on a rainy Thursday evening when the band took the stage for the opening night of their summer tour.
The evening began with a rousing set from The Record Company. Let me make a suggestion to you, reader. If you have the opportunity to see them, do it. The front man can, to be blunt, rip it on guitar. They were a delight to see, especially considering they mentioned the My Morning Jacket song "Golden" as being life changing to them and how much of an honor it was to perform on the same stage. Humility, ladies and gentleman. What a breath of fresh air from a band with such an old school sound.
After being thoroughly warmed up, My Morning Jacket took the stage, opening with two tracks from their latest release, The Waterfall. At the end of the night, they'd only return to that album once more. Most of the night was spent on their first three albums, At Dawn, Tennessee Fire, and It Still Moves. The band was in full blown jam mode for a good deal of the evening, turning songs like "Off The Record", "War Begun", and "Steam Engine" into multi-part epics that had those dressed in tie-dye Grateful Dead shirts rolling and swaying with delight. For those who love to rock out, however, the lulls and long interludes overstayed their welcome. While those in the front were firmly in the band's grasp, many in the seated areas started to talk. Soon, the chatter was audible during the quieter moments, and it was a little disappointing that the crowd wasn't as invested as I remembered during my last MMJ experience back in 2011.
Perhaps the lesson learned that night was not that the band has lost some of its touch, but instead that the band is much better watched with the diehards - those sweaty, stoned masses in the pit who came hours ahead to snag the latest show poster and dive into the details of yesterday's set list with friends and strangers. There, I think, is the heart of the experience, and one that I won't miss the next time the band's paths cross my own again.
Until next time, my friends.
Spring (Among the Living)
Off The Record
I Will Sing You Songs
A New Live [cover]
O Is the One That Is Real
What a Wonderful Man
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Yes We Can [cover]
Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) [cover]
Holdin On to Black Metal
Phone Went West
By: The Busted Amp Staff
Joseph: Oh, Mastodon. One of the biggest names in metal right now, Mastodon stopped by Cincinnati on their Emperor of Sand tour, an album which I did not like at all. For me.....it's been a long time since I really got into a Mastodon album. I'd say their cold streak for me dates all the way back to 2006's Blood Mountain. So I went into this show skeptical. I was worried that what happened for me on Emperor of Sand, and basically every Mastodon album of the past 10 years was going to happen live. Unfortunately, I was right. Every song sounded the exact same.
It wasn't all bad, however. The night started with an interesting, instrument-only band called Russian Circles. A band which I would never see as a headliner, but was a really solid opening salvo for the heavy rock evening. While many love the "experience" that comes with watching an instrument-only heavy metal band, I am not necessarily one of them, so I got a little bored as their set wore on. Fortunately, because they were the opener, their set was short and sweet, hence why it was a solid way to wet our rocketites. (Get it? Rock appetite? I'll see myself out)
After Russian Circles, though, came the entire reason I personally was there: Eagles of Death Metal. One of my favorite bands in existence, and first time I've seen them live since they were the headliner at Le Bataclan on November 13, 2015, Eagles of Death Metal tore the roof off the Taft Theatre, tearing through a criminally short 50 minute set. The set offered something of a bit of closure for me. The terrorist attacks back in 2015 struck a nerve with me as both Derek and myself had seen the band just a few months before that, but it was truly uplifting to see the band rocking and rolling once more. I have no qualms when I say I wish Mastodon had opened for Eagles of Death Metal and not the other way around. Oh and Brent Hinds from Mastodon opened the Eagles of Death Metal set with them on guitar. That was pretty cool.
After Eagles of Death Metal came Mastodon. The set started out strong with the band playing several tracks off of Blood Mountain and keeping things diverse, however after their performance of 2006's "Colony of Birchmen," things started to fall apart. Every song sounded exactly the same. It was impossible to differentiate these songs, and the overall set declined pretty rapidly in the second half. Sadly, by the end of the set, I was just happy for it to be over. There's no doubt that Mastodon is a great heavy metal band, and perfect for hour-long sets at a music festival. But their material is just too similar for an enjoyable 90 minute headlining set. And there was no encore, which was kind of weird. The band played "March of the Fire Ants" and was like, "Ok! We're done here! Thanks for coming!" While this is a trademark of the band, it's still pretty jarring for a regular concert goer. I like being able to take a breath and prepare for an epic encore. Ultimately, while I'm glad I can officially check Mastodon of the list as "seen them," I really wish I had seen them open for Eagles of Death Metal. Or on the farm at Bonnaroo. But, beggars can't be choosers.
Derek: If you were to name a group of bands that I discovered solely from Rock Band, Mastodon is probably at the very top of that list. To this day, "Colony of Birchman" is one of my favorite songs to play, and I was more than excited to see them live. The problem with seeing a band like Mastodon at Taft Theatre is obvious once you enter through one of the four doors at look around the famous Art Deco room. The main theater is entirely seated. For a band like Mastodon to play there, with no room for jumping around and yes, moshing, it creates quite the disconnect of energy. I was hesitant to buy tickets for this very reason, but because of Rock on the Range, the hard rock and metal festival in Columbus, the last time Mastodon performed in Cincinnati was over ten years ago at Bogart's. Add to this a few consecutive sub-par albums (even though I enjoyed Emperor of Sand much more than Joseph), and there was a real feeling of urgency to see them before their prime is too far in the rearview mirror.
The mix of songs were about what I expected. They played the majority of Emperor of Sand and five tracks from Blood Mountain. The rest of the set was a peppering of songs from their other five albums. In hindsight, I'm glad they played a good amount from Blood Mountain, my personal favorite, but I can't help but wish there was less Emperor of Sand, because it really played into the issue that Joseph stated above. A lot of the songs from that album sound too similar to create an engaging show. I found myself watching individual band members perform and day dreaming, whether it was Brett Hinds barely opening his mouth as he growled his vocals or Brann Dailor's amazing drum fills, something that made Mastodon's songs so enjoyable on Rock Band. Everything about the second half of the set played against the casual metal fan, which was most certainly us. The individual instrumental performances were there, but the show dragged on after a while.
For me, the show can be summed up with a series of maybes. Maybe it would have been different in a general admission theater. Maybe if people were allowed to move around instead of being stuck in their seats there would have been more energy. Maybe if the ushers didn't scold concertgoers for having half a foot in the aisle it would have made for a better vibe. Maybe when you have a metal show at Taft Theatre you don't put two extra rows of folding chairs in the front and call them "pit seats". Maybe.
Rock on, dudes.
The Wolf Is Loose
Colony of Birchman
Chimas at Midnight
Circle of Cysguatch
March of the Fire Ants
By: Thunderblast Cochran
[ Founder's note: Even though Derek & Joseph attended this show, we invited a close friend and die hard Red Hot Chili Peppers fan to provide the review for this show. We hope you enjoy it. -Derek ]
Seeing an act as venerable and ubiquitous as the Red Hot Chili Peppers is an altogether different experience than the kinds of low-key, low-price, general admission shows a twenty-something like me goes to when he has no other weekend plans. You buy the tickets months in advance, agonizing over the high sticker price and exorbitant vendor fees. You know that you could have spent twice as much to get seats from which you could actually see the band clearly. You hope that thirty-plus years of touring has produced a seasoned act that transcends the limits of a stadium-sized venue and delivers a satisfyingly energetic experience, even if you’re clear across the building and stuck in the two square feet of personal space allowed by seats that a bargain cinema would turn its nose up at.
Thankfully, the Red Hot Chili Peppers still know how to put on a show. The attentive fan will be able to detect hints of a template, a rote quality to the proceedings that is inevitable for a band that regularly embarks on eighteen-month tours and seems unable to turn down a headlining gig at a music festival. I have seen the band three times now, twice with the current lineup and once with the legendary John Frusciante, and I can say that this was the show in which they seemed least engaged with the audience, with barely a break to acknowledge Flea’s love of Bootsy and Catfish Collins. Instead, they filled the space with music, jamming through a set filled with surprisingly deep cuts that had a visible effect on the audience: after back-to-back performances of “If You Have to Ask” and “Me and My Friends,” large swathes of people had sat down, no doubt wondering what they were listening to and when the band would just play “Under the Bridge,” already.
They never did. For a band with enough hits to fill an entire set with nothing but and still have enough singles for an entire second set, the Chili Peppers showed an admirable commitment to diving into their catalog to find the funk. They played more songs from 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik than 2016’s The Getaway, the album the current tour is supposed to promote. They ignored smash hits like “Under the Bridge,” “Can’t Stop,” and “Scar Tissue” in favor of “Sir Psycho Sexy,” “They’re Red Hot,” and “I Could Have Lied.” It was a show for the fans and obsessives, and it delivered.
Anthony Kiedis, who is 54, appears to be the only remaining member still fully committed to performing shirtless for at least part of the set. Everyone in the band, with the exception of the decades-younger Josh Klinghoffer, has slowly fallen into the persona of aging rock star. Yet they still retain the energy and aggressive musicality that propelled them from the 80’s L.A. punk scene to international superstardom. I find myself wondering when biology will finally catch up to them. They wear more clothes now, and perhaps they don’t jump quite as high or dance quite as much, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a machine that shows no sign of breaking down. They will probably keep going until they drop—and if they can continue filling stadiums, why shouldn’t they?
Around the World
If You Have to Ask
Me & My Friends
Feasting on the Flowers
Sir Psycho Sexy
They're Red Hot
Suck My Kiss
I Could Have Lied
By the Way
Give It Away
By: The Busted Amp Staff
Derek: After a stellar set from Pixies next door at Madison Theater, a portion of the crowd wandered over to the smaller, more intimate Madison Live! for a $5 unofficial aftershow with Louisville, KY's garage rock breakouts White Reaper. For the next hour, White Reaper tore down the house with the heavy riffs, sleek synths, and party anthem vocals. The band has made waves with last two releases, including their latest The World's Best American Band, and their live show solidified them in my mind as one of the most fun, high energy shows out there. Tony Esposito's vocals tore through the dancing mosh pit at the front of the stage while keyboardist Ryan Hater's antics on keys brought to mind a cape-less Rick Wakeman from the prog-rock band Yes. Brothers Sam and Nick Wilkerson kept the driving beat on bass and drums. It was quite the showing for the Louisville band, and I wish more people had found their way over from the Pixies show; the room was only about half full. Were they dissuaded because of the late start time? Were they turned off by the hardcore punk openers No Parents? Personally, I enjoyed No Parents and thought some of their lyrics were hilarious.
Either way, I think it's safe to say that you'll be hearing much more of White Reaper in the next few years.
Joseph: HOLY SHIT. What a freaking show. I needed that. I think we could all use a good punk show to get our blood pumping every now and again, right? The overall show was pretty short, so I wish more people would've taken advantage of the $5 asking price, but I'm sure glad we did. The show started with hardcore punk artist No Parents, who had a short but very sweet set. The band embodied pretty much every punk stereotype out there, but there's nothing wrong with that. I was a bit disappointed by the mix, as it was next to impossible to hear the lead singer, but.....then again it is a punk show, so who cares, right? [Derek: I heard the vocals just fine through my earplugs. Invest in a good pair, everyone. It does wonders...]
After No Parents came White Reaper. Unlike Derek, I was pretty unfamiliar with the band. I had listened to The World's Best American Band, but I failed to hear the magic that has made White Reaper one of the hottest bands in the punk genre today. Well, after their blistering, loud, crazy, dance-your-heart-out-like-you-just-don't-care set, I could see why. The band has an absurd amount of energy, and their latest album translates over extremely well live. Then, combined with songs off their previous two albums.... they were simply unstoppable in the small, intimate space of Madison Live! Their 2015 album White Reaper Does It Again has been on repeat for me since the show, and I can't wait to see them again. They're playing at pretty much every festival in existence this summer, and I can't recommend it enough.....go see them. They're probably playing pretty early in the day at whatever festival you're going to, so do yourself a favor. Get there early that day, and see White Reaper. They just might be the best set you see all day. I can't wait to see them again at Bunbury, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. (I'm not kidding when I say they are playing at every festival in existence this year).
By: Joseph Kathmann
If there's one band who knows how to put on a good show, it's Twenty One Pilots. Seeing one of the biggest bands on the planet in the height of their prime is a hard thing to do, but that's exactly what I managed to do this past Saturday in Memphis. The crowd knew every word of every song, and the atmosphere was intense as almost the entire arena got a 2 hour glimpse of what certainly became their favorite band by the end of the night. While I'm constantly bothered by the fact that there's only two people on stage despite the numerous layers in their music, it's hard to care about that after they've torn through their 20+ song set without so much as a breather.
That said, getting to Twenty One Pilots was something of a chore. The opener, Jon Bellion, was pretty lackluster and just had a 20 minute set, and the initial opener, Judah and the Lion, went on right at doors so we didn't even get a chance to see them. Bellion was pretty lackluster, and after his quick set there was almost an hour's worth of a wait to get to Twenty One Pilots. The crowd was clearly getting antsy by the long wait, but boy where they in for a treat.
You know, I've really been lucky so far this year with my live shows, as both were two of the best shows I've seen for different reasons. St. Paul and the Broken Bones was great because there were a lot of casual fans at that show that were converted to the magic of the band, but Twenty One Pilots don't have many casual fans. Everyone knew every word of every song, and the girls were screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the energy-packed set. Tyler Joseph jumped around all corners of the stage during every song, and Josh Dun plays drums with as much energy as anyone I've ever seen. It's hard not to think of him as one of the best drummers in the music industry today. The band made use of every inch of their stage, filling it with lights, cannons, and video boards. At one point the duo played a few songs from an auxiliary stage at the back of a pit, and the floor light up on this stage. Because of course it did.
Other antics from the band included Josh Dun crowd surfing (a bit, at least) in the pit with his drum set, and the duo closed with "Trees," in the pit. Overall, I think what I found most impressive about the duo was their civility. There's no doubt they are one of the hottest bands on the planet right now, dropping the youngest generation's equivalent an album like The Black Parade in 2015 with Blurryface, but they still came across as authentic, down-to-earth guys. They took plenty of opportunities to thank the opening bands, (despite their short sets) and even let Judah and the Lion frontman Judah Akers a chance to stage dive in one of those giant inflatable bubbles during "Stressed Out." Ultimately, while I went in skeptical of the band's live show because....c'mon. Why are there only two guys on stage? I came out of that show with my questions answered and my skepticism all but gone. Twenty One Pilots are on top of the musical world right now, and their live show is a big reason for that.
By: Derek Jung
The National guitarist Bryce Dessner once again put together a diverse and eclectic lineup for the 11th installment of his MusicNOW Festival, which takes place every year in various locations around downtown Cincinnati. This year, the festival kicked off with a performance by legendary rhythm guitarist and founding Grateful Dead member Bob Weir. Dessner and the rest of The National are fresh off the release of their massive 10 LP collaborative box set of Grateful Dead covers (which, if you haven't listened to it yet, it is stunning), so it wasn't surprising that Dessner tapped Weir to perform. Weir himself released Blue Mountains last fall, which was his first album of all original material in nearly 30 years.
Weir came out alone on stage to begin the first of two sets, diving straight into the aforementioned Blue Mountains accompanying himself with only an acoustic guitar. Weir's voice, strained with age, echoed wonderfully off the enormous Aronoff Center facade. Before long, Weir was joined by "The Campfire Band", or Aaron Dessner, Bryan Devendorf, and Scott Devendorf of The National as well as Jon Shaw from Shakey Graves and Josh Kaufman, who co-produced Blue Mountains. Vocalist Lisa Hannigan also contributed her beautiful voice to a few songs, including "Lay My Lily Down" during the first set and "Peggy-O" during the second. The setlist was pretty diverse, with a healthy mix of solo material from Blue Mountains and classic Grateful Dead songs. The jams were adventurous, but for the most part did not stray away from a defined structure, with Weir physically signaling to the group when he wanted to transition. Some of those transitions were a bit clunky, but I'll attribute this more to not having years and years of experience with each other.
The crowd was a pleasant mix of older Dead Head stoners, and young people. It was amusing watching the terrified looks slowly grow on the Aronoff Center ushers' faces as the unmistakable aroma of marijuana grew heavier as the show went on. I think it's safe to say that more weed was smoked that night than has even been smoked in the theater before. But it was mood spoiler during the second set when ushers got strict with any suspected puff of smoke or cell phone light. You'd think the Aronoff Center would have anticipated the crowd would be lighting up.
All in all, another great act put on by MusicNOW. The show was well attended for a Thursday night, and I was happy to see a crowd so engaged and enthusiastic. We owe Dessner quite a bit for bringing such great collaborative music to Cincinnati, and we need to be sure that it continues well into the future.
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: