“Hey, Fred!” 07/13/15-07/19/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

This is a stacked week befitting the beginning of the hottiest, stickiest parts of summer. A big chunk of the word-count here is dedicated to Columbus’s best-rebounded festival, the Jazz and Ribs Fest. Growing up, I saw amazing things at this fest including David Murray and Oliver Lake, but there was a long period where it basically cratered, locked into a morass of midtempo, smoothed-out mediocrity. I’m happy to say it’s come back to the point where – while not on the level of Detroit or Chicago – it’s a damn fine festival again that brings in interesting acts we wouldn’t likely see otherwise and provides a fantastic showcase for our local talent.

Visual Art

July 18-19: SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo). Northland Performing Arts Center. 4411 Tamarack Blvd.

Bob Corby (Back Porch Comics) is one of those not-sung-enough heroes in town whose names I try to make sure I call out. He saw a gap and a way to capitalize on all the independent comics creators in the region and he saw a market for another comics show that wasn’t beholden to superheroes and non-comics-celebrities, a lower-key Midwestern riff on MoCCA, SPX, and APE and by God he did it. One of my favorite events in town where I’m constantly inspired by the talent and the plethora of voices making vital work.

This year’s going to be a little bittersweet for many of us in the local arts – and particularly comics – community because we’ve so recently lost Valerie Starr (referred to last week). She and Talcott sold their whimsical, funny, wise work at the show every year. So that should be an extra reason to go out and spend some money. Find something new. Talk to someone you might otherwise not have.

10:00am-6:00pm Saturday. 10:00am-5:00pm Sunday. $5 per day, $8 for the weekend. Exhibitor List and more information available at http://backporchcomics.com/space.htm 

July 18: A Celebration of Life: Aminah Robinson. Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E Broad St.

Aminah Robinson was one of the finest artists to ever call Columbus home. Work that was striking in its first blush but kept revealing new information and new sensual pleasure. Soulful, rich, intense, and thoughtful paintings, murals, and other media.

Columbus Museum of Art has a strong collection of her work and it’s only fitting they’re hosting a celebration of her life on this Saturday. Her work is on display in their Forum gallery and a presentation including speeches and music by Columbus institution Arnett Howard starts in the Cardinal Health Auditorium at 3:00pm.


July 15: Kate Wakefield and Rural Carrier. Used Kids Records, 1980 N High St.

Kate Wakefield, opera singer and cellist from Cincinnati, has been amassing a strong critical buzz. She builds songs from loops but in a way that reminds me more of William Basinski and Antony and the Johnsons with elements of early Owen Pallett than the showy way that kind of technique often comes across. It’s haunting, gripping work and should be a wonder in Used Kids who have really stepped up their show game over the last few years.

Wakefield’s on tour with Rural Carrier, Jacob Koestler from Cleveland’s project built around shaky, unstable tones and drones rising up through the cracks. It’s beautiful, meditative work.

The locals on the bill I’m honestly not familiar with – Field Sleeper and Slime Scapes – but if the bookers were confident to put them on this bill I’m in.

6:00pm-9:00pm. Donations encouraged.

July 16: Wolf Eyes. Mint, 42 W Jenkins Ave.

Wolf Eyes are a shining example of a band not burning out and giving in after their moment of mainstream attention – epitomized by two records on Sub Pop – and at the forefront of what felt like a new American noise zeitgeist has passed. These Detroit heroes doubled down on their blend of cathartic, ritualistic throb and continue to make some of the best records to come out of this amorphous scene. Their dubbed-out, narcotized abstractions over the years have made one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

The rest of the bill is nothing to ignore, either. Rev//Rev is a new industrial project from members of Lafayette’s TV Ghost, one of the most exciting rock bands of the last several years, and people I trust have been raving since their last trip through town. Muscle Puzzle and Melted Man are two sides of the still-vital Columbus noise scene.

Doors at 9:00pm. $10 cover.

July 17-19: Jazz and Rib Fest. North Bank Park.

As stated above, this has reclaimed its place as one of my favorite summer festivals in Columbus. This year’s particularly special since it’s the first time – I think – Red Baraat have ever played Columbus. They played after my pal Mike Gamble’s wedding in Hudson, New York, and I can’t wait to see them again. Below is a smattering of personalized – as is the wont of this column, I won’t talk up what I can’t get behind – recommendations:


1:00, North Bank Park: Keigo Hirakawa Trio. Dayton’s Keigo Hirakawa has an interesting approach to the piano that is clearly coming out of the post-Monk school and in the same vein as Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson, there’s also an appealingly rough rhythmic touch that reminds me a little of Borah Bergman. If you have the day off or if you work downtown, take a late lunch and see this.

3:30, AEP: James Gaiters’ Muv-Ment. Anyone who’s read this blog at all knows I think Gaiters might be the best drummer in town. Muv-Ment is still the best vehicle for his soulful, fascinating compositions. We haven’t seen a lot of Muv-Ment shows in town since the release of his great record Exodus last year partly because Lovell Bradford no longer lives in town so this is a reunion you should do everything in your power to check out. Also playing Natalie’s Saturday night with special guest Pharez Whited.

5:00, AEP: Rad Trads. NYC’s Rad Trads are a party band who are part of the same scene with Hot Sardines, Bria Skonberg, and Bombay Rickey, younger folks carrying the torch of institutions like the Nighthawks. The best writeup on them in town is friend Andrew Patton’s writing for Jazz Columbus. They fuse classic small-group territory orchestra swing with ’60s and ’70s growling soul and funk a la The Meters and the JBs. Get your weekend started right with this set. Also playing Brothers Drake Saturday night.

7:00, North Bank Park: Pharez Whitted Sextet. Pharez Whited was the first local jazz player – other than people who already had a national/historical rep like Gene Walker or Hank Marr – whose playing I ever loved. His sharp, metallic, post-bop trumpet tone cut through a smoky bar, a fine restaurant, or a concert hall like nothing I’d ever heard before. Beyond that, his writing was top notch and he played with the most exquisite players (including a young James Gaiters). It was fire every time he got on a bandstand and the crowds went crazy. He’s gone on to greener pastures in Chicago now but it’s always a treat when he comes back through town and this might be one of the highlights of the whole festival.

9:30, AEP: Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet. Eddie Palmieri is one of the absolute legends of Latin jazz. From his ’60s work with Cal Tjader to his soul-salsa blends of the ’70s and ’80s to his hard driving work today there’s never a bum note or a bad choice when Palmieri’s behind the piano and his bands are never less than excellent. One of the cultural highlights, not just music, of the year.


11:00a, Jazz Cafe: Tom Davis Quartet. Tom Davis might be my favorite jazz/classical guitarist in town right now, certainly my favorite guitarist on the rise – so no slight to Brett Burleson or Larry Marotta. He’s got a mastery of tone that most people would envy, you can tell it’s Davis on stage within three notes even if you’re between two loud barflies trying to order a drink and on the far other side of the bar. His trio work’s great but when he adds another melodic voice, whoever it is, it’s seismic, stratopheric, and enthralling.

2:30, North Bank Park: B Jazz and the Jazzhop Movement. B Jazz (real name Brandon Scott) is a keyboardist and songwriter with a gift for infectious R&B melodies. He first hit my radar through the Liquid Crystal Project (with J Rawls) and really got my attention through his work with Talisha Holmes. I’ve never heard a bum note he’s played and his writing is astonishing.

3:00, Jazz Cafe: Zakk Jones’ Screeching Owl. Zakk Jones is one of the fastest-rising guitarists in town and he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the couple years he’s been on my radar. His main project, Screeching Owl, put out a fantastic album earlier this year with bouncy melodies and harmonies – especially among the horns and vibes – that just glisten. Great review of this record by Andrew Patton here: http://www.jazzcolumbus.com/zakk-jones-screeching-owl-dreams-of-yesterday-ep/

5:00, AEP: fo/mo/deep. Fo/mo/deep inhabit a rich, funky fusion that’s melodic enough for the smooth jazz fans but can shake the walls on a regular basis. Their Headhunters vibe is big and intense like a summer thunderstorm, this is the perfect bridge between day and night.

5:00, North Bank Park: Carsie Blanton Trio. Carsie Blanton has a rootsy torch song quality with a voice steeped in history but a fresh voice that flashes like a hidden stiletto. If you like Eleni Mandell or Cassandra Wilson like I do, this is a set definitely worth checking out.

7:00, North Bank Park: Willie Jones III Quintet. Willie Jones III is one of the finest bebop drummers in that classic style, having played with Horace Silver on late tours and Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as on a couple fantastic Cedar Walton records and recently with tenor revivalist Javon Jackson. His bringing his own quintet which recently has included Eric Reed, Jeremy Pelt and Dezron Douglas so don’t sleep on this.

9:00, Jazz Cafe: The Admirables. The Admirables are one of the most buzzed-about Cleveland funk bands right now. A righteous live show with great songs both original and repertory. Going to be a drenched, funky good time on a Saturday night.

9:30, North Bank Park: Red Baraat. This is my personal highlight of the festival. Sunny Jain’s ragtag virtuoso A-team Red Baraat played the afterparty for my great friend Mike Gamble’s wedding to Devin Febboriello in Hudson, NY, a couple years ago. It was the kind of sweaty, righteous party to finally cracked the shell of my hangover and made me feel gloriously, hummingly alive again. They’re touring behind their best record yet, Gaadi of Truth, which at this midpoint is a strong contender for my records of the year and while Columbus expat Jon Lampley isn’t joining them on this set word is he’ll be in the house and so should you. If you love world rhythms, catch call and response, and music that reminds you how good it is to be alive, don’t miss this no matter what else you do.



“Hey, Fred!” 06/29/15-07/05/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

I hope and trust you’re all adequately nursing your hangovers from either Comfest or staying the hell away from Comfest. This week is appropriately lower key but time doesn’t stop and neither does my incessant need to recommend, cajole and remind. So let’s get to it.


June 29: Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello and Mariachi El Bronx. Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, 405 Neil Ave. 

Dave King of Fastway’s punk-roots Celtic project Flogging Molly has shown a lot of stamina over the years. There’s no reinventing the wheel here but they are one of the most joyous and consistent live bands you’re likely to see in any genre. I saw them turn the usually staid Celtic Rock tent at our annual Dublin Irish Fest into a full-bore rock show which is no easy task. King’s writing stays true to his inspirations but also his wide-ranging curiosity and the 7-piece band behind him are loose and tight in all the right ways.

The bill is filled out with two other bands that personify a complicated, roiling electric joy. Gogol Bordello is a band that screams “New York” the way the Pogues screamed “London”. Ukranian-born Eugene Hutz fit right in – and often swapped members – with similarly eclectic NYC bands like Firewater in the late ’90s and has, against all odds, found an audience willing to embrace such gleefully weird and simultaneously traditional and ripped-from-tomorrow’s-headlines music. I was lucky enough to see them at Bernie’s with the astonishing band Throw Rag on a day their tour mates Flogging Molly were playing the aforementioned Irish Fest and to this day it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Mariachi El Bronx is a side project of Matt Caughthran’s LA punk band The Bronx and his use of traditional mariachi rhythms played with that fiery punk energy reminds me a lot of the Texas Tornados or later Mavericks which is about a high a compliment as I can give a band.

You’d be hard pressed to find a lineup better suited for the sloping green lawn and the warmth of the LC’s outdoor stage and you’d be remiss to miss this.

Doors at 6:00pm. Tickets and more info available http://promowestlive.com/events/853

June 30: Ximena Sariñana. The Basement, 391 Neil Ave.

Sarinaña broke through in the US – after a long career as a popular actress and singer in her native Mexico – through her collaborations with the Mars Volta leader Omar Rodriguez-Lopez but she’s hit a stride with her 2011 self-titled record and last year’s No Todo los Puedes Dar. She writes and sings moody, thorny dance music and torch songs ballads with a voice you can’t get out of your head, the closest comparisons I can come up with are Shilpa Ray and Nicole Atkins but it’s very much her own thing. Seeing this in the intimate confines of The Basement is a treat and a privilege.

Dominican up-and-comer Alex Ferreira opens and brings with him rock-solid songs that range from the glittery new wave homage of “Cambio” to keening acoustic ballads like “Me Pierdo Contigo.” Get on this before they’re both selling out stadiums.

Doors at 8:00pm. Tickets and more info available at http://promowestlive.com/events/971

June 30: Ana Popovic. Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave.

Ana Popovic, Belgrade native, is one of the most highly hyped and sought after younger blues singers working now. She has a gritty howl that’s unafraid of the higher reaches of her register and assured guitar playing that’s comfortable in the fluid soloing contemporary blues fans are looking for but I’m most impressed by her confident, second-nature rhythm playing. This is the kind of show that’s a perfect fit for Woodlands’ big stage and world-class PA.

Doors at 8:00pm. Tickets and more info available at: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5956255&pl=wood

July 3: Thee Tsunamis. Cara Bar, 115 Parsons Ave.

Bloomington’s Thee Tsunamis are a burst of classic girl-group punk energy and swing. They bring an infectious enthusiasm, a righteous stage show, and, most importantly, songs you’ll dance yourself sick to and walk out into the night – and probably the still-swelled downtown crowds after the fireworks – singing to yourself.

The lineup of locals on the bill more than hold their own. Reverbalines start the evening out, the new project of David Banbury and Eva Owen from Nom Tchotchkes, with those solid songs and harmonies given a significantly higher-octane engine with the addition of Matt Benz (The Sovines, The Beatdowns, Sin Shouters) on lead guitar and Jason McKiernan (Grafton, The Bygones) on drums. Pretty Pretty are romantic pop-punk that seems firmly in the Exploding Hearts vein – short songs in short sets with spiky guitars and no shortage of hooks. The Goners recall, for me, the Replacements scrappy eclecticism and seem to walk that same borderline between the wistful and the anthemic especially in frontman Alex Mussawir’s gnarled, yearning voice and grimy guitar; their sound is given heft and dynamics thanks largely to Catherine Ericson’s powerhouse drumming.

Doors at 9:00pm. Free.

July 5: Kevin Gordon Band. Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St. 

Since the opening of Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, Columbus has been the beneficiary of often being on the way to or from Fitzgerald’s legendary American music festival in Chicago the weekend of Independence Day. And while Butch Hancock (Natalie’s on Saturday) is the biggest name and certainly worth your time, I think the real gem – and especially the real surprise – is Kevin Gordon appearing with a band for, I believe, the first time in Columbus.

Gordon’s got an MFA in poetry and the eye for detail in his lyric writing that promises. He’s also got a keen eye for arranging and a taste for a wicked guitar lick. I saw him at a Twangfest around 10 years, when his Come Look at the Burning record had just come out and I was blown away, one of the most original voices in that time-honored subgenre I can think of. While he’s great solo – the format he generally tours in and he’s been brought to Columbus previously in (most recently opening for Todd Snider earlier this year) – seeing him with a band is a special experience. If you like classic juke-joint rock and roll with lyrics you can sink your teeth into, a la Dave Alvin or Scott Miller, you should not miss this under any circumstances.


Even as it annoys me sometimes, Comfest is still a supernova in my summer and this year’s lineup looks stronger than the last couple. I’m posting this a week early so there’s plenty of time to check out my suggestions and leave your own in the comments. I included media when there was something easily embedded like bandcamp or soundcloud.

You may not see me at all these sets – in fact, you might not see me at all on Saturday because I love Comfest more when I don’t deal with Saturday crowds – but there’s nothing here I don’t stand behind or that hasn’t been on my list to check out for a while. Let’s get to it!



12:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Screeching Owl. 

Zakk Jones is one of the fastest-rising guitarists in town and he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the couple years he’s been on my radar. His main project, Screeching Owl, put out a fantastic album earlier this year with bouncy melodies and harmonies – especially among the horns and vibes – that just glisten. Great review of this record by Andrew Patton, personal friend, friend of the blog, and the best writer about jazz in town here: http://www.jazzcolumbus.com/zakk-jones-screeching-owl-dreams-of-yesterday-ep/

Expect this to be the perfect way to ease into your Comfest with your first still-cold beer and tikka masala wrap in the bright June sun.

12:45, Offramp Stage: Corbezzolo.

Corbezzolo were one of my favorite discoveries last year when I saw them open for Jason Ajemian at Double Happiness. The duo of Marie Corbo singing and switching off between guitar and bass and Noah Demland drumming cut through the noise in the crowd and the noise in my head until I couldn’t not pay attention. A beguiling mix of fragile and powerful, introverted and intense, songs that grab you by the collar.

2:40, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Tom Davis.

Tom Davis might be my favorite jazz/classical guitarist in town right now, certainly my favorite guitarist on the rise – so no slight to Brett Burleson or Larry Marotta. He’s got a mastery of tone that most people would envy, you can tell it’s Davis on stage within three notes even if you’re between two loud barflies trying to order a drink and on the far other side of the bar.

Davis has assimilated the history of jazz guitar and come out sounding perfectly like himself – playing in situations as diverse as Vaughn Wiester’s big band, free-improv freakouts, or Pete Mills’ straight-head bebop and killing them all. Beyond that, he puts together great, great bands – his tribute to the Jim Hall/Paul Desmond Quartet about a month ago at Dick’s was so beautiful I almost cried – so while there’s no word on who he’s bringing this time, I guarantee it’ll be worth seeing..

4:50, Live Arts Stage: Najla and Muziki.

Queen Najla is one of the finest local proponents of African dance, percussion and storytelling. One of our most jaw-dropping artists. Every time I’ve seen her on stage I’ve had chills all over my body, the craft is undeniable and her spirit is infectious and true. I’m not sure who/what’s accompanying her as muziki (the Swahili word for music) at this performance but I guarantee you won’t be disappointed whoever it is.

5:45, Offramp Stage: Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars.

In the last few years, Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars have cut their jokier songs and refined their lineup in a way that resembles – as a friend said about another band’s guitar player change a few years ago – adding extra fingers to a fist. While I miss Matt Reber’s more melodic bass playing and Fes Minck’s gnarled, wild lead guitar, the current lineup of Heather Lazor – maybe my favorite drummer in town – in lockstep with Matt Campbell (Gasohol) on bass laying down the rhythm behind Pat Dull and Chris Casella’s guitars and Linda Dull’s roar feels like a more unified, sharpened thing. Some of the most fist-pumping fun in this town right now.

5:55, Gazebo Stage: Slick Andrews and the 3-C Grifters.

Slick Andrews is Columbus’ finest honky-tonk singer and his 3-C Grifters lineup is a 30 years strong rootsy supergroup. His voice will melt steel, break glass and stab you right in the heart. And his band, anchored by guitar hero Matt Newman, will blow your hair back. Bring whatever dancing shoes you think will survive the mud.

6:55, Bozo Stage: The Dewdroppers.

The Dewdroppers are one of the most gleefully fun bands in this town –  if your dancing shoes don’t need re-cobbled after Slick Andrews at the Gazebo, they damn sure won’t survive an hour of this. A tight band comprised of some of the brightest lights in Columbus music: Counterfeit Madison, Adam Nedrow, Benny Brennerman, Jake Huffstetler, Joe Gilliand, Trent Sampson. They have great taste in material touching on Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, ’50s doo-wop and ’60s pop-soul, and a fistful of originals, played tightly but with their eye mostly on fun. This show comes on the heels of their record release so expect them to explode on that big stage.

7:15, Offramp Stage: Salvage.

Brian Simakis is best known in town as one of our finest soundmen but his band Salvage is remembered very fondly by some of us, not least of all me. A hard rock band touching on all styles under that umbrella but beholden to none, with a tight rhythm section – Chris “Spanky” Hughes on bass and Chrys Cornetet on drums – and catchy, funny songs (“Soundman” is still maybe the best “tribute” to that beleaguered profession). Honestly, I didn’t realize they were still a going concern until I saw them on the Comfest schedule so I’m very excited to see this return in the flesh.

7:55, Bozo Stage: Comrade Question. 

Comrade Question is one of the freshest-sounding rock bands with some of the best songs to appear in town in a while and it’s a pleasant surprise to seem them on deck for the big stage. A mix of the Velvet Underground’s minimal drumming and drone bass with psych and surf tendencies in their three guitars and killing harmonies between Lee Mason and Katie Baillie.

8:00, Offramp Stage: Sin Nombre.

The best current band of Arturo DeLeon (saying something given his prolific nature). Sin Nombre is everything good about raw ’80s metal – Overkill, early Anthrax, even a little southern groove like Eyehategod or Pantera – with none of the fat or the annoying tendencies. With Artie on guitar and vocals, Scott Corney on second guitar, and the killer rhythm section of Jeff Plavcan on bass and Scott Sprague on drums, this might be the hardest the Offramp rocks all weekend.

8:50, I Wish You Jazz Stage: James Gaiters’ Soul Revival.

I texted some close friends who would be amenable to this – I hope – that this is my new favorite band in town, regardless of genre, and it may well be. James Gaiters is my favorite drummer in town and one of my favorite composers, and this stripped down and sideways take after his sextet Muv-Ment merges soul jazz and classic King/Fortune style R&B into a raucous, thoughtful, swinging party. This is helped by the fact that he’s got the best players in town. Eddie Bayard, who sets everything he touches on fire, on tenor saxophone; Jon Eshelman on organ; and Craig McMullen who played second guitar on Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack. Do not miss this.

8:55, Bozo Stage: The Girls!. 

The Girls! are a story in how to keep going after loss everyone should learn from but no one should have to, with the way they came up swinging after their original guitar player Joey Blackheart passed away last year. Joe Rosenblum stepped up admirably and before long they were back with the best powerpop songs in town anyone’s written in years and one of the best live shows. At previous Comfests they’ve filled the Offramp tent until it was almost bursting and I can’t wait to see what they do with the big stage when the sun goes down.

10:15, Offramp Stage: Whiteouts.

The Whiteouts are a rare – and grand – choice to close the Offramp this year. Frenetic songs played to within an inch of their lives by a handful of the best players (and friends) in town with a healthy dose of the anarchy and the wildness that’s been sorely missing from Comfest the last couple years. Grab the flashes of chaos while you can and hold on.


11:00, Bozo Stage: Bloodthirsty Virgins.

Nikki Wonder’s one of my favorite singers and entertainers to ever walk across a Columbus stage. For a few years in the early ’00s, her band Jack Neat with their blend of torchy vocals, noir twang guitar and a swinging rhythm section, were my favorite band in town. Her new project, Bloodthirsty Virgins, features a stellar cast of musicians backing her including Scott Gorsuch on guitars, Keith Hanlon on drums and percussion, and James Wooster on bass. I finally caught them a few months ago and it delivered on all that promise and history in spades. Start your Saturday – and scour off your hangover – with something that really has teeth.

12:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Insane Jazz Posse.

This combo, led by bassist Ben Johnson, took a while to win me over with the jokey name and the arrangements of contemporary pop songs, But win me over they have, with an uncanny empathy between Johnson and Ryan Jewell on drums and Alex Burgoyne on reeds and Alex Schrock on guitar. There’s great, gritty writing there and real, surprising beauty.

1:45, Offramp Stage: Trachete.

Trachete, a supergroup including members of much missed bands like Rosehips and Di Di Mao, led by Aimee Bell-Wanzo’s ripping howl, might be the best meat and potatoes garage rock in town. Thick grooves, grimy guitar and soaring harmonies. As close to a sure thing as Comfest Saturday has.

3:30, Gazebo Stage: Barry Chern and Company.

Barry Chern plays almost anything with strings and has played with a wide cross-section of people in town. My first exposure to his current bag was Comfest a year or two ago and it was the first time I’ve ever thought of comparisons to Pentangle or Incredible String Band at the Gazebo stage. If you know me, you know what high praise that is. Go see this and see the way the sunshine dances over those strings and the crowd in this set.

4:10, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Columbus Liberation Music Orchestra.

Michael Van Der Does is one of the unsung heroes of Columbus, in his various capacities as poet, leader of the Jazz Poetry Ensemble, booker of astonishing fire music acts, and instigator of improvised happenings. This year for MLK Day he organized the first outing of the Columbus Liberation Music Orchestra – including such astonishing players as Brett Burleson, Roger Hines, and Randy Mather – tipping the hat to Carla Bley and Charlie Haden’s own liberation music – in a program called Blues for Ferguson. I missed that performance but heard wall to wall raves from people who did go and this is not to be missed.

4:15, Solar Stage: John Schnabel.

I saw John Schnabel recently on a bill with his son Micah (co-leader of Two Cow Garage) and it was some of the finest smart, wry heartland storytelling I’ve heard in song in a long time. Comparisons to John Prine are not wrong nor do they overstate it.

5:10, Live Arts Stage: Doctah X.

One of the finest practitioners of dub reggae and avant-garde electronic music in Columbus. Doctah X should be seen as a national treasure but until he is, we’re lucky enough to have him at Comfest every year.

7:00, Bozo Stage: Mojoflo.

MojoFlo have been killing it of late, heavy touring and Columbus gigging have made their stage show a can’t miss and their material gets tighter and tighter. Amber Knicole’s one of our finest singers and entertainers, as riveting on a ballad as on a call and response chant. George Barrie’s guitar is perfect, never overplaying and while he understands stretching for the dancers, he never over-complicates the lines, there’s a sense of space and purity in his playing. The horn section, too, cares more about space than making sure you know how much they can technically play on every line. That goes double for the rhythm section anchored by Doni Jai on drums and a rotating selection of bassists. Great songs, a great show, something I never regret seeing in town.

7:10, Offramp Stage: Dominique Larue.

Dominique Larue’s a damn star. One of our best, most engaging rappers with a fiery live show. Expect the Offramp tent to shake and be full to the bursting for this.

7:55, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Tony Monaco.

I miss Tony Monaco being the very last act at Comfest on Sunday as he was for many years, but closing out a Saturday night isn’t a bad consolation. Keeping the Jimmy Smith soul jazz flame alive with consistently great players including Derek Dicenzo or Josh Hill on guitar and Jim Rupp or Reggie Jackson on drums, you should be able to see the steam rising off this stage for miles, even in the dark.


12:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Vaughn Wiester Big Band. 

One of my favorite Comfest traditions. The best big band leader and arranger keeping that flame alive in town, trombonist Vaughn Wiester, leading a group to kick off the final day of Comfest and blow the dust off bedraggled, sozzled ears, and bloodshot eyes. While the last couple years have seen him moved to the jazz stage and other things starting at 11:00, this is still the beginning of my Comfest Saturday.

12:00, Gazebo Stage: George Barrie Band. 

Barrie, co-leader of Mojoflo described above, channels his non-funk impulses into his eponymous band. A tasteful, razor-sharp guitar player and a fine singer, this has been on my list to check out for a while.

12:25, Offramp Stage: Time Lords.

Beth Hunter has led some of my favorite bands in town including Thee Pistol Whips, Stits, and Dirty Biscuits. With her Time Lords project, she channels and pays tribute to her forebears in raunchy, grimy blues rock with a rotating cast of players.

1:55, Offramp Stage: Haynes Boys.

I raved about this early Tim Easton project above in the run down of Friday’s afterparties but it all holds true. The first time I ever saw them, I think, was an outdoor festival and there’s a nice symmetry in seeing their return in that mode.

1:55, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Daddy Romance.

The near-east side of Columbus legendarily had a thriving organ driven soul-jazz scene from the ’60s through the ’80s which was sadly under-recorded and aside from big names like Hank Marr and Gene Walker is rarely spoken of these days. One of those legendary names was Alvin Valentine who went by “Daddy Romance” – I’m 95% sure this is not the same Alvin Valentine who made vocal records for Brunswick, but please correct me if I’m wrong – and Jim Maneri’s quartet to pay tribute to Valentine is the best kind of raging party music. Along with Maneri’s keys,the band features Joe Crump on sax, Jimmy Castoe on drums and vocals, and Roger Hines on bass. It’s highly recommended you soundtrack your third or fourth fish boat of the weekend with this.

2:40, Offramp Stage: Drift Mouth.

Drift Mouth have some of the most interesting songs in town and have carefully carved a sound-world for these songs to live. They remind me most of a darker Souled American. Slowed down, narcotic murder ballads through the gravel-snarl of singer Lou Poster (Grafton, The Ferals) in a wash of guitar with Craig Davidson’s (Righteous Buck) almost-psychedelic lap steel and Mark Spurgeon’s (Greenhorn, Big Back 40) razor-sharp leads backed by one of the best rhythm sections in town with Josh Draher on upright bass and Brad Swiniarski on drums and backing vocals.

2:45, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Gene Walker Tribute.

Much of the jazz stage this year has a tribute theme and no tribute is more deserving or more likely to bring out the creme de la creme of Columbus than this. Walker was one of the great tenor players who played with Sam Cooke, The Beatles, King Curtis, Jimmy Reed, but also Jimmy McGriff, Elvin Jones, Hank Marr and Dave “Baby” Cortez. Here in Columbus he’s almost as well known for his work with students, including teaching at OSU for 20 years and continuing to lead a weekly jam session until not long before his death. He cast a long shadow and was loved by any musician who mattered that I can think of, so the intersection of a tribute to him and the gathering of the tribes at Comfest (where Walker’s childhood friend Rahsaan Roland Kirk headlined the first year) should be something to see.

3:00, Gazebo Stage: John Turck Trio.

Over the years, John Turck, Danny Cashin, and AJ Barnes have built up a language as a trio that’s something special. Turck’s songs can still go a little soft for me but he’s got a keen, glowing gift for a melody and the last few times I saw them there were moments that left me breathless. If you like softer, Laurel Canyon-infused rock dappled with sunshine, I think they’re worth checking out.

3:40, I Wish You Jazz Stage: From the Five Jazztet.

This space has talked quite a bit about Mark Flugge who Columbus tragically lost last year. One of the greatest tributes to his legacy has been the continuation of one of his most flexible and beloved quintets, the From the Five Jazztet, featuring all musicians he played with regularly. This version includes Dave DeWitt on piano, Derek DiCenzo on bass, Aaron Scott on drums, Randy Mather on sax, and Kim Pensyl or Rob Parton on trumpet and it’s some of the best, most invigorating bebop you’re going to hear in town.

4:55, Offramp Stage: The Kyle Sowashes.

Kyle Sowash is one of the handful of people who almost single-handedly carries Columbus on his back and has since he moved here. His eponymous band has refined themselves and his songs into a lean, well-oiled machine and he’s been on a streak of unassailable records for the last three or so, the newest of which, this year’s Everybody, might be the best one yet. In keeping with the earlier talk about the elegiac or tribute nature of the jazz stage, the new album also serves as a tribute to Brett Helling, long term bass player and great friend to so many people in this scene, who died too soon this year.

5:05, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Nicole Sherburne.

Sherburne’s another artist who I feel like has really come into her own in the last few years. She got my attention working with local funk party band The Fabulous Johnson Brothers but her work has gotten darker and knottier and thicker in texture. I haven’t checked out this quartet yet but her tone with Adam Smith on drums, Phil Maneri on bass, and Jason Branscum on trombone should be something to see.

6:00, I Wish You Jazz Stage: Turtle Boat.

One of the most interest repertory bands in town. Guitarist Aditya Jayanthi on his return to Columbus assembled Turtle Boat to primarily grapple with Paul Motian’s oeuvre. Paul Motian passed away in 2011 and is widely recognized as one of the greatest drummers of the 20th century – I know I deeply treasure the three times I saw him play – but he’s still underrated as a composer. Turtle Boat’s taken up that mantle, intriguingly putting special focus on Motian’s Electric Bebop Band. And Jayanthi found the perfect cast of players for this journey – including Max Button, Brett Burleson, and Alex Burgoyne. One of the sets I’m most looking forward to.

6:20, Live Arts State: Is Said and the Advanced Party 

Is Said has long been an inspiration in Columbus as a poet, as a playwright, as a teacher, and as an example of living an actuallized life. I remember the first time I saw him perform and later the first time I saw one of his plays like it was yesterday. This Last Poets-inspired format is my favorite way to see Is Said, and in the sunshine of Comfest he serves as a link to its activist past and a reminder of how good it can be.

7:00, Gazebo Stage: Erica Blinn and the Handsome Machine.

Erica Blinn is one of the hardest working people in town. While I wasn’t in love with her first full length, Lovers in the Dust, it had a handful of terrific songs. More importantly, she followed it up by touring relentlessly and opening for the best Americana acts working today, honing her five-piece band The Handsome Machine into a well-oiled classic rock machine. She’s been hard at work on her followup record so expect a few new songs. But definitely look for an explosive, swinging good time at this set to end your Comfest and send you out smiling.

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June 20: The Art of Storytelling 2. Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St.

Local writer/rapper/ organizer Searius Add has almost infallible taste and both the contacts and the passion to put together some of the most interesting bills in town. Case in point, this week’s special Father’s Day edition of his intermittent Art of Storytelling series in the intimate confines of Wild Goose. There isn’t one element of this that’s less than stunning.

This Art of Storytelling is hosted by JG the Jugganaut (aka John Gibson) who’s one of our most dynamic poets, making noise and touring regularly. An intense, charismatic, funny performer whose writing has an astonishing eye and a rhythm that engages the whole body.

The undercard of authors is a pair of intriguing voices I’d bet on hearing more about very soon. Rayshawn Wilson is a local therapist and motivational speaker who, in 2014, put out a memoir, Lionheart: Coming Where I’m From which has received rave reviews including this one from the School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/adult4teen/2015/01/05/inspirational-memoirs/ Quartez Harris released his first poetry collection, Nothing But Skin, last year and I’ve heard nothing but good things about both his writing and his performance.

The headliner, Scott Woods, probably needs no introduction to readers of this blog because I’m a shameless, unabashed fan of the man and his work. He was the first person to take teams of Columbus poets to the National Poetry Slam, eventually serving on the board of PSI (the organization that throws said NPS) and has put out many books and records. He’s one of the most vital, necessary voices in Columbus art right now and maybe literature period and he’s one of the few artists I’ve seen in any genre or town who keeps leaping out of his comfort zone, swinging for the fences, and and consistently getting even better. Any time he does a feature set, anyone in any creative field – or anyone who loves words – should take notice.

Live music is provided by Matt Seward II, son of local R&B/gospel legend Matt Seward who brings a tenor voice and guitar that reminds me of a young Terry Callier.

6:30-8:30pm. Tickets available here.


June 15: Drainolith with Mike Shiflet. Double Happiness, 482 S Front St.

Over the last few years they’ve been open, Double Happiness has quietly turned into a primary home for some of the most interesting booking in town. Things that might otherwise pass our city by or fall through the cracks get a home with an almost built in audience and some of the best sound in Columbus.

Mike Shiflet, since I first saw him in Sword Heaven, has plowed a fertile field of richly textured abstract noise. As he’s added more guitar of late, the textures have gotten both harsher and more sensual, as seen on his recent collaboration with Jerry DeCicca (Black Swans), Walks on the Beach, and any solo show in town is going to be rewarding.

The headliner, Drainolith, is the new solo project of Alexander Moskos, formerly of noise rock juggernaut AIDS Wolf. A collaged, abstract take on depressive singer-songwriter music that feels incredibly fresh. This solo work uses guttural blues signifiers a la Will Oldham but arranges them with noise and static threading the elements together.

Doors at 8:00pm. $8 tickets available at http://www.doublehappinessohio.com/event/848617-drainolith-columbus/

June 17: Bobby Floyd Trio featuring Brian Olsheski. Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Bobby Floyd’s principal gig in Dr. John’s band keeps him on the road a lot so anytime Columbus’s finest keyboard player is back in town it’s cause for jubilation. But this show is special even above and beyond that.

Floyd’s regular trio with Derek DiCenzo on bass or guitar and usually Reggie Jackson (also touring with Dr. John) on drums have an uncanny empathy and the unshakable confidence of people who can do anything musically, and special guest Brian Olsheski on tenor sax has a similar musical bond with Floyd that I’ve seen take the roof off many a bar or concert hall. If you love jazz, do not miss this.

Starts at 9:00pm. Tickets available at http://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=d1e364c99068f524e1b639c96f04fb42

June 19: Tink and Kim Joyce. Park Street Saloon, 525 N Park St.

Chicago rapper Tink’s collaboration with Tazer, “Wet Dollars,” is a convincing early contender for song of the summer 2015. Buzz for her upcoming record executive produced by Timbaland, Ratchet Commandments, is blisteringly hot and the couple singles out so far are dancefloor monsters. Her voice doesn’t need more than a few bars to get stuck in your brain and not let go and the choice of beats is top notch.

Local Kim Joyce opens with her modern blend of edgy, sensual R&B – great songs put across like her life depends on it.

This interesting booking merges the live music aesthetic of Woodlands’ management with the clubbing past of Park Street Saloon and promises a sweaty good time. Doors at 9:00pm. Tickets available at Ticketweb.

June 19: A Tribute to Camu featuring Da Intalec, Metro, Copywrite, Tame One, and C-Chan. Double Happiness, 482 S Front St.

Camu Tao’s loss is still felt in Columbus and underground hip-hop in general. Much like the Mark Flugge tribute we talked about here last week, this is an astonishing lineup full of people who knew and collaborated with him that speaks to the depth of feeling he and his music gave us all.

This tribute features Da Intalec, often referred to as a mentor to Camu Tao and many others, still making vital, virbrant music. A collaborative set between Metro (who worked with Camu in the still-underrated party rap group SA Smash along with work with Cannibal Ox and many more) and Copywrite (who needs no introduction except to say he’s been making some of the best music of his storied career in the last few years). A set of Tame One (in The Weathermen with Camu along with collaborations with Del tha Funkee Homosapien, KRS-One, and Mos Def) and fellow Jersey rapper C-Chan. Held together and held down by DJ Bombay spinning before, between, and after the other acts. This would be a great show no matter what but as a tribute, it’s almost unparalleled.

Starts at 9:00pm. Tickets available at http://www.doublehappinessohio.com/event/864439-tribute-camu-columbus/

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Visual Art

The Work of Sara Adrian. Urban Scrawl Pop-Up Gallery, 480 W Town St. 

Sara Adrian’s painting combines a rich, flowing line with deep investigations of myth and the subconscious. Her work with both oils and acrylics is striking, I still remember the first time I saw her pieces in a group show. This is the first solo show of hers that’s hit my radar in a while and I think it’s a must-see.


June 10: Shifted. The Summit, 2210 Summit St. 

Kevin DeBroux and Albert Gray are doing some of the most interesting booking in town right now at the Summit/Bobo complex and this has all the hallmarks of being another winner. I don’t keep up on electronic music that well these days but slowly more and more of it is creeping back into my diet. One of my favorite records in this rediscovery of the last few years is Under a Single Banner by UK artist Shifted. Shifted’s music is full of left angles and surprises. His love of juxtaposition with glossy snare sounds and thick bass rumbles laced with almost pure static used like an additional percussion track is intoxicating. The tracks work on the dancefloor but they also work as landscapes, as action painting.

The rest of the lineup is stacked as well. Cleveland’s Prostitutes make use of similar jolting juxtapositions in a way that shocks the listener but coheres into total sense, rewiring your brain and perception. Locals The Fallen – the new project from Columbus house legend FBK – and Funerals are no slouches either, the kind of gritty, dark and uplifting techno that puts your more in the moment and more in your own body.

Doors at 9:00pm. $8 cover.

For a great interview with Shifted, check out http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2013/11/shifted-interview-bed-of-nails

June 12-13: What You Will Fest. Old World Stone Carving, 4820 Beard Rd, Sunbury, OH.

Gerard Cox is one of the unsung heroes of music in Columbus and I’m going to keep saying that until his praises are adequately sung in both tenor and volume. For many years he’s booked artists that might never have played Columbus otherwise – including Mary Halvorson, about whom more below – and as he’s turned more attention to local and regional in the last few years he’s kept that same standard of quality and discernment. Cox is someone who believes in improvisation as one of the highest standards of music but also as a healing practice without getting too esoteric about it.

His fifth What You Will festival in Sunbury is the event of the summer for anyone interested in jazz or free improvisation. Friday night’s set with Rent Romus from the bay leading a septet of Cleveland and Columbus improvisers – including LA Jenkins on guitar, Dan Wenninger on reeds, and Chris Weldon on cello – is bookended by a duo of Adam Smith on drums and Wenninger on reeds and Nicole Sherburne’s Auriculum Quartet with Phil Maneri, Smith, and Jason Branscum.

Saturday is full of highlights – what I’m most looking forward to include Detroit’s James Cornish on cornet in duo with percussionist Curtis Glatter; a different septet of Rent Romus, Jayve Montgomery, Tony Zilinick, James Cornish, Chris Weldon, Bryan Stewart, and Ryan Jewell; a quartet of the great Hasan Abdur-Razzaq, Adam Smith, Michael Goecke, and Willie Smart; and so much more. A chance to see phenomenal music in a gorgeous setting barely an hour from town. Even if you have the same aversion to camping I do, this should not be missed.

7:00pm Friday through midnight Saturday. Suggested donation of $10-20. The full schedule is here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153302896638605&set=gm.398931153628295&type=1&theater

June 14: Second Annual Mark Flugge Memorial Concert. Mees Hall, Capital University, 1 College Ave, Bexley, OH.

I talked quite a bit in my year end wrap ups about what a loss the death of Mark Flugge was to this town last year. The tribute concert at Capital University where he worked for so long, and had such an amazing impact on so many musicians over the years, was one of the most moving afternoons I had.

Flugge is still being remembered and paid tribute to – I just a smoking version of his “The Borderland” by the John Allen Trio at Dick’s Den on Wednesday – and I’m happy to say everyone involved is making good on their promise to make that formal concert hall tribute an annual event. This year’s memorial features the Vaughan Wiester Famous Jazz Orchestra going specially commissioned arrangements of Flugge’s work along with smaller combos, chamber music groups, and soloists. This also marks the release of Mark Flugge Remembered: Jazz Originals and Standards which is a compilation of previously-unreleased tracks designed to give a taste of the width and breadth of one of the finest careers in Columbus music. From early word, the record should be an essential document of Columbus jazz and classical music.

Show starts at 2:00pm. Free event.

June 14: Secret Keeper (Mary Halvorson and Stephan Crump). Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Mary Halvorson’s probably my favorite jazz/avant-garde guitarist working right now. I was blown away the first time I saw her in duos with viola player Jessica Pavone at a show booked by Gerard Cox – see above – and I’ve been blown away every single time since, seeing her with Ingrid Laubrock in both Laubrock’s quintet at Barbes and an improvised trio with Tom Rainey at Issue Project Room, playing duets at The Stone, with Marc Ribot in Sun Ship, with Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant at Bowery Poetry Club and Travis Laplante’s quartet at Shapeshifter Lab, and of course her own groups which I’ve seen from the Jazz Gallery to the Wexner Center for the Arts. So it’s a big deal to me she’s coming back to town.

Her unique writing and guitar vocabulary can conjure everything from her longtime teacher Anthony Braxton to Derek Bailey to Horace Silver to Mingus. Over the years she’s developed a way of working with space and the decay of notes that almost puts me in mind of Eliane Radigue and Feldman. Her singular tone and attack haven’t changed so much as over the years they’ve had flash and excess stripped away. The renewed depth and spaciousness of her playing is most apparent in her new project, Secret Keeper, and she’s found a perfect foil in bassist Stephan Crump – this is dancing on air without a net.

I’m very glad to see Natalie’s – one of my favorite listening rooms in town – booking something like this and it’s the show I’m most excited for this week.

Show starts at 8:00pm. $10 tickets available at http://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=9c5d0e4bdb33efe24d11945ea6d77f4f

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This is the week of Origins Game Fair which I don’t attend every year any more but it still brings many of my dearest friends in from out of town and I’m happy it’s both still here and it weathered GenCon moving closer to its date. There are some great music options if anyone’s coming to town but – like I always used to be at cons – interested in ducking out and seeing what else the town has.


June 3: Beth Israel. Double Happiness, 482 S Front St. 

Beth Israel is a deliciously loud, abrasive, and plodding post-punk band from Austin co-signed by Parquet Courts. They plow a similarly bummer sphere as PC, steeped in late ’70s and ’80s referents with a delighful, Dadaist approach to lyric writing. If you’re a sucker for that kind of thing like I am, they do it in a way targeted right for that sweet spot.

Anyone into Protomartyr, the dronier parts of the Bassholes, or the many bands who’ve taken up the Joy Division torch in recent years, would do well to see Beth Israel in these intimate confines.

Doors at 8:00pm. $5 tickets at https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/860413?__utma=1.209975392.1432496223.1432496223.1432496223.1&__utmb=|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=(not%20provided)&__utmv=-&__utmk=209472018

June 5: Ava Luna. Double Happiness, 482 S Front St.

Like the above-mentioned Beth Israel, Ava Luna has a strong interest in sounds of the ’70s and ’80s but they fuse and fracture that DNA into something beguiling and uniquely their own. Brooklyn’s Ava Luna traffic in an intense, agitated funk that’s frayed around the edges but also gleaming with gorgeous harmonies that never seem to resolve where you’d expect.

Doors at 8:00pm. $7 tickets available at https://www.ticketfly.com/event/829191-ava-luna-columbus/

June 6: Elizabeth Cook. Rumba Café, 2507 Summit St.

There aren’t many finer American songwriters than Elizabeth Cook – if you can name 10 better country songwriters, pound-for-pound, I think you’re a liar. She has a knack for a melody that will slip right between your skin and your bones and clean you like a fish so your all-together is whipping in the breeze in long, red strips.

Her last record, Welder, might be her masterpiece, with songs like “Mama’s Funeral,” “Heroin Addict Sister,” and “Rock and Roll Man”, but I thought that about both her records before. A killer, cunning stage presence honed by more than 300 appearances on the Grand Old Opry and lots of touring, plus her acclaimed radio show on SiriusXM, she’s not to be missed whenever she comes to town.

Boston singer-songwriter Reed Foehl opens. The buzz around him is white-hot, having written the single on Lee Ann Womack’s amazing last record and strong press across Americana and jamband lines.

Starts at 9:00pm. $15 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5679165

June 6: Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. Park Street Saloon, 525 N Park St.

Cory Henry, keyboardist from Grammy-winning jazz-R&B combo Snarky Puppy has been on fire with his new solo band this year, the Funk Apostles. Columbus has benefited from this as this is, I’m pretty sure, Henry’s third time through town this year. This time, he brings his gleaming new mothership to the larger (and more centrally located especially for you Origins folks, hint hint) confines of the Park Street Saloon.

Henry has a crack ensemble built around himself on keys and vocals. Featuring Andrew Bailey on guitar and Nick Semrad on keys and one of the greatest rhythm sections touring now – Sharay Reed (from Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan’s bands) on bass and Cleon Edwards (Jill Scott, Erykah Badu) on drums. It’s a powerful, joyous sound when they get together with an understanding of dynamics and tension not often seen in the more jam-centric groups.

Starts at 10:00pm. $10 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5805105

June 6: Mojoflo and Gramps the Vamp. Brothers Drake, 26 E 5th Ave. 

Mojoflo is the preeminent party band in Columbus right now, one so infectious they even get a hardened, cynical jackass like me on the floor and moving.

Amber Knicole’s one of our finest singers and entertainers, as riveting on a ballad as on a call and response chant. George Barrie’s guitar is perfect, never overplaying and while he understands stretching for the dancers, he never over-complicates the lines, there’s a sense of space and purity in his playing. The horn section, too, cares more about space than making sure you know how much they can technically play on every line. That goes double for the rhythm section anchored by Doni Jai on drums and a rotating selection of bassists. Great songs, a great show, something I never regret seeing in town.

The icing on the cake for this Gallery Hop show is the Chicago band Gramps the Vamp. Gramps the Vamp refer to what they play as “doom funk” and it’s definitely an ominous but sensual sound. The closest comparison I can make is to Budos Band’s recent turn toward ’70s soundtrack influences on their record Burnt Offerings and the snaky brass definitely recalls that but the country could use more bands like that, not fewer.

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OTG_Twitter_Feed_smallMay 30: Off the Grid. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St. 

This week there’s nothing I want to recommend more highly than Off the Grid. The Wexner Center’s fundraiser for their education programs is also one of my favorite parties of the season. Over the last five years since the annual non-gala fundraiser has morphed into its current form and name, Off the Grid has taken on its own identity and carved out its own demographic:  culture vultures like me, young professionals out to see and be seen (and get their first taste of the Wexner Center in the bargain), and a crowd just out to eat some great food and dance to some of the best out of town DJs anyone books.

The selection of local restaurants is always top notch – don’t forget to eat as I have sometimes, too caught up in talking and dancing. The music’s always a righteous dancefloor filler and it gets taken up another notch this year with local electronic artist Giant Claw and Brooklyn DJ Lauren Flax (half of Creep) one of the hottest producers and DJs out there right now.

This marks the end of my two year run on the GenWex Advisory Committee. I know there are a lot of competing choices that night. But if you’re not at Nelsonville Music Festival an hour’s drive away – and if you’re getting down to Oblivians, Budos Band, or Mavis Staples, I won’t question your choices – or seeing the Rolling Stones a fifteen minute walk away, it would be lovely to see you out at this. Starts at 8:00pm. For tickets and more information visit http://wexarts.org/public-programs/genwex/grid-0


May 26: Hard to Be a God. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St. 

No discrespect to Mad Max, but I feel comfortable saying this is the Science Fiction film event of the summer and maybe the year if you’re my breed of SF fan. That is, the kind of nerd who got his or her head blown open by reading Boris and Arkady Sturgatsky’s The Roadside Picnic as an adolescent (and seeing the Tarkovsky adaptation Stalker in High School or College).

It’s hard not thinking about the discussion of a few sad, small, scared men trying to hem in boundaries and keep people out of that kind of genre work (and the celebration of same) when something that reminds me of the genre work I love most comes out. Those were the kind of voices that made me think SF wasn’t worth bothering with and made it easy for me to walk away – without regret – from almost all cons over a decade ago. I went many years not even checking for what was new on those shelves. In the long term, I know their time is done – with them now emboldened and scared leading a terrifying choir that chokes on dust and sounds like a death rattle. As I try to empathize with my friends fighting the good fight on those fonts, I think it’s more important than ever to celebrate this kind of work.

If you want to think of it as other than science fiction, that’s great too.I’m not that kind of nerd to say “You stand up and say ‘No, this is science fiction! You do like science fiction!'” (Yes, I sat in a panel where someone actually did this about Future Shock or Frankenstein or Rappacini’s Daughter and my sense of fuck this started to harden). But it’s a great example of what those tools can tell us about the future and about the past. This film adaptation, finished by Aleksei German before his death, is supposed to be phenomenal and you can best believe I’ll be there. Starts at 7:00pm. $8 tickets available at http://wexarts.org/film-video/hard-be-god


May 28: Deicide, Hate Eternal, Entombed AD, and Svart Crown. Alrosa Villa, 5055 Sinclair Rd. 

In high school when I got turned onto the Earache school of death metal, that was my punk rock, and while it’s not a huge part of my diet these days, I still get a charge out of putting on Deicide’s Legion or Serpents of the Light, and To Hell with God of a few years ago was a stunning return to form full of catchy riffs and pummeling rhythms. Entombed I took a little longer to warm to – and they’re probably still more often thought of by most readers of this blog as the band Nicke Andersson left to form Hellacopters, but I still put on Wolverine Blues with some regularity and it might be the best example of a fusion of straight-ahead rock and roll with the prickly grind of death metal. I saw Hate Eternal a few years ago at the Newport and Erik Rutan still has that quicksilver guitar tone and mastery of the immediately identifiable riff, this power trio format is a brilliant showcase for him. Svart Crown I just found researching this and they’re a French band in the same scene as Alcest who have a great blacked death groove akin to Ohio’s Skeletonwitch. For someone with my tastes and aesthetic, this is the most stacked metal show to come through town in a while. Locals Lorna Shore and Exudate open along with Reading, PA’s, Black Crown Initiate. Doors 5:30pm. Tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5774665

May 29: E-40 and Mystikal. Xclusive Elite Entertainment Center, 1921 Channingway Center Dr. 

Two of the strongest proponents of the regional rap explosion of the mid-late ’90s coming back to town on one massive bill. E-40 helped popularize the Bay Area’s hyphy sound. Mystikal brought a different slowed-down blues shout flavor to the New Orleans flourishing exploding everywhere. These were two voices immediately recognizable the minute they came out of a speaker on a radio or at a party and two indelible songwriters. This venue – a revival and restoration of a classic Columbus dancehall – has been booking killing hip-hop and country acts of late, I haven’t made it to one yet but I’d be remiss not bringing this up to anyone anywhere near my age. St. Louis’ Stevie Stone opens. Doors at 7:00pm. Tickets available at http://www.ticketmaster.com/e40-and-mystikal-columbus-ohio-05-29-2015/event/05004E8DB0D27D04

May 30: Scale Model with Damn the Witch Siren and The Girls!. Wall Street Nightclub, 144 N Wall St. 

Wall Street’s principally known as a dance club but they’ve always done other things – drag shows, musical theater – and they’re making a rare foray into live rock bands this weekend with a perfectly chosen bill. Scale Model out of Nashville does a riff on classic New Wave with observational lyrics, a wry sense of humor, and hooks to spare delivered by a ferocious frontwoman, Megan Rox.

They’re paired with two of Columbus’s finest in a similar make-you-dance vein. Damn the Witch Siren, fronted by Krista Botjer, refine their funky throwback dance music at a white-hot pace, better every time I see them with ever-stronger songs. The Girls! came out of the gate with maybe the best hooks in town and their unhinged live show is a fireworks display, a thing of beauty and wonder that will fill a dancefloor in seconds flat; they’re recording again soon so look for new songs through that big, gorgeous PA at Wall Street. 8:00pm doors. $7 cover.