“Hey, Fred!” 08/17/15-08/23/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

Visual Art

August 21: NSATSAT&A. MINT, 42 W Jenkins St. 

MINT’s one of the new loci for the experimental art and music community in Columbus. This new group exhibition, subtitled “surveillance + security + sexuality” has me incredibly intrigued. This feels like a show you don’t want to miss in your town.

Karen Azoulay, from Toronto now based in Brooklyn, works in a variety of media whose forms seem to hover around a sensuous, ecstatic, apocalypse. When Glenn Ligon wrote about a New York exhibition of hers he said, “Suffused with humor and melancholy her work reveals an interest in mythology, literature and alchemy as well as Las Vegas spectacles, the work of Yayoi Kusuma, opera and Renaissance painting.”

Angela Jann, returned to Columbus after getting an MFA at Pratt, is a painter who deals in a knives-out surrealism leavened with a winking pop art absurdity.

Ann Hirsch, based in Los Angeles, works in video and performance interrogating how technology shapes gender and human relations. What I’ve seen gives me a strong Laurel Nakadate vibe which is high praise, Nakadate’s made my visual art of the year list at least once and barely missed it a few other times. Maybe the artist I’m most interested in checking out.

Kathryn Shinko recently finished her MFA at Kent State and works in textiles which is a medium I’ve been ravenous for since the Wexner Center’s Fiber show finally opened up my half-dead eyes.

Beny Wagner is based in Berlin. His moody, intoxicating, textured work in video and installations has gotten heavy praise from Artforum, Kaleidoscope, and other sources.

Opening 7:00pm-10:00pm. Free.


August 19: Alanna Royale. Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit St. 

I doubt it’s a surprise to anyone who’s ever sat with me in a bar with a jukebox for 20 minutes, much less read this column for a week or three, that Alanna Royale’s right up my alley. Catchy, sultry, sweaty retro soul with an immediately identifiable voice and songs that hold their own against history.

If you like The Right Now, Robin McKelle, or I’d even wager to say JD McPherson or St. Paul and The Broken Bones, this is a must-see. The kind of Wednesday night that makes however much you hurt on Thursday worth every bit.

Local funk-inspired jam band The Floorwalkers close the night.

Doors at 8:00pm. $10 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=6010225

August 21-23: VIVO Music Festival. Garden Theatre, 1871 N High St.

More than once I’ve lamented that the biggest gap in Columbus’s musical landscape is contemporary classical (new music, whatever term you feel you want to use). We’ve got decent symphony and chamber orchestras but despite two very fine music schools Columbus doesn’t get the same kind of flood of young, excited players doing exciting, new programming out of the classical realm as we do with jazz.

So I’m very excited by the prospect of this first year of the VIVO Music Festival. Organized by violinist Siwoo Kim and violist John Stultz this has the potential to be the exact kind of antidote I (and at least a few others I could name) have been hungry for. Partnering with the Johnstone New Music Fund they’re putting on three shows at the Garden Theatre.

Friday, 8:00pm: 8 Strings, 9 Tails. This program presents Dvorak’s Terzetto, Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings and John Zorn’s Cat O’ Nine Tails (Tex Avery Directs the Marquis De Sade), the latter of which was a massively formative experience for me. I remember the day I bought Zorn’s String Quartets at Shake It Records and put it on my friend’s stereo in college. I was hooked, my friends.

Saturday, 8:00pm: In the DarkPerformed in the Garden’s smaller Green Room space, this program features Georg Friedrich Haas’s String Quartet #3, “In iij, Noct,” played in complete darkness.

Sunday, 4:00pm: Unstrung. This program experiments with a conductorless chamber orchestra of some of the most promising classical musicians in town. The repertoire includes Bach’s Third Brandenberg Concerto and one of my favorites, Astor Piazolla’s  Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

A terrific interview with the artistic directors is available at WOSU and $15 reserved tickets for Friday and Sunday (Saturday is free) as well as more info are available at http://www.vivofestival.org/

August 22: Dave Holland Tribute. Dick’s Den, 2417 N High St.

A quartet of our finest younger jazz players including maybe our hottest rhythm section – Max Button (drums), John Allen (bass), Zakk Jones (guitar), and Danny Bauer (piano) team up to take on the oeuvre of maybe the finest straight-ahead jazz composer since the ’70s, bassist/bandleader Dave Holland.

Holland’s one of the few artists of any stripe I think I can literally say I’ve never heard a bad record by. He writes ballads that will make your wine taste sweeter and you fall in love more with the world, uptempo ragers that will make you bounce off the wall or ruin your pants, and abstractions you can get lost in for days. And this is a perfect group to play those perfect songs. Watch summer start its fade over a nice glass of rye whiskey while the music takes you somewhere else and also plants you back in yourself.

Starts at 10:00pm. $4 cover.

August 23: Publicist UK with Young Widows. Spacebar, 2590 N High St. 

Publicist UK hit my radar when I saw they had guitarist David Obuchowski from Goes Cube who I loved. Fronted by Zachary Lipez of Freshkills with a rhythm section held down by David Witte (Municipal Waste) on drums they merge a young Nick Cave delivery to pummeling almost metal drums and bass for charcoal drawings of a scorched Earth I find intoxicating.

Rounding out the bill are Louisville’s Young Widows who plow the fields of a clench-jawed shadowy ecstasy that reminds me most of Swans. If you dread Mondays anyway, come to this show and let your darkness come out of your pores and join the vibes in the room. Locals Hadak Ura, with whom I’m not yet familiar, open.

Doors at 8:00pm. $12 cover.


“Hey, Fred!” 08/10/15-08/16/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five


August 11: Frau with Birds of Hair and Katherine. Cafe Bourbon Street, 2216 Summit St.

Frau from London are a breath of fresh air, taking classic punk tropes and stylistic signifiers and injecting enough acid in their veins that they feel brand new. Great songs that break into wild, unpredictable noise, this is the kind of show Bobo excels at.

Birds of Hair are one of my favorite, favorite bands that almost never plays. Marcy Mays from Scrawl and Night Family on guitar and vocals, Sarah Yetter from Frostiva and El Jesus de Magico on bass, and Jen Burton, now mostly known in town as an entrepreneur for The Barrel and the Bottle and Seventh Son Brewing but with a long history of fascinating music with bands like Face Place, on drums. A noisy, riotous band that reminds me of everything I love about rock and roll.

Katherine were one of those bands I wished I saw more in town, great songs and an earnestness that never got cloying. One of the two members is moving to Philly very soon so this is both a reminder that nothing gold can stay and that you should get out and see the bands you love while they’re playing because you don’t know when it’s going to stop, but mostly this will just be a great show.

Doors at 9:00pm. $5 cover.

August 13: Danny Bauer. Dick’s Den, 2417 N High St.

Danny Bauer, recently profiled in JazzColumbus, has over the last couple years established himself as one of the city’s most versatile pianists, a first call for a lot of musical situations. I’m very intrigued to see this new group he’s suggested (in the above interview) skews toward the avant-garde.

Bauer’s assembled an incredibly strong lineup of players. John Allen, rapidly becoming one of the finest bass players I’ve ever seen in town and Ryan Folger who’s worked a lot with those two and Zakk Jones combine for what should be a tight, swinging rhythm section. Aroh Pandit on trumpet astonished me with John Allen’s quintet at Dick’s not long ago. Justin Dickson on saxophone from that Capital University axis I haven’t seen as much but I’ve heard great things. The most intriguing x-factor for me here is the addition of Annie Huckaba on vocals who blew me away in CATCO’s brilliant production of [title of show].

Show begins at 10:00pm, $4 cover.

August 14: Maceo Parker. Scioto Mile, 25 Marconi St.

Popular music of the last half of the 20th century would look a hell of a lot different if it weren’t for the great Maceo Parker. A key player in the JBs and the best lineups of Parliament-Funkadelic, his unmistakable gritty tenor sound has enlivened records from Keith Richards to Dee-Lite to Prince without even getting into all the samples.

Maceo invariably has one of the best live bands touring. I still talk about that joint tour with Ani Difranco in the late ’90s as one of the five best shows I’ve seen of any genre. Funk/rock/pop royalty doesn’t get any higher than this and you’d be a fool to miss a chance to see one of the true, unassailable living legends.

August 15: Nots. Dude Locker, 527 E Hudson St.

Nots is one of the most exciting rock bands I’ve seen in years. Based out of Memphis and led by Natalie Hoffman and Charlotte Watson, when they take the stage it’s a torrent of sparks and heat and acid. They put out a record on Goner last year I can’t stop listening to. They blew the roof of the tent off at 4th and 4th a few weeks ago and we’re very blessed to have them back in town so soon.

This is also the 7″ release party for one of the best bands in town, Raw Pony, making this even more of a don’t-miss for anyone who likes rock and roll. The bill’s rounded out by the spacier rock of Sex Tide and elder statesman Mike Rep.

August 16: Eric Taylor. Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High.

I’m not sure I can think of a better songwriter than Eric Taylor – I know for damn sure I couldn’t name more than five. His ability to zoom in from universal aphorism to the most perfect of details and, in turn, reveal the universal in that, bringing Blake’s the world in a grain of sand to life, is the kind of dazzling writing that makes me want to work much, much harder.

Taylor fuses a deep empathy for his characters to heartrending earworm melodies. He can say more in a couple lines – like the opening to “Big Love”, “I found your name and number / On a pack of matches / Thought that I might call you up / And talk about myself” – than most people ever do in whole books or records. Do not miss this. I can’t recommend anything higher.

“Hey, Fred!” 08/03/15-08/09/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five


August 4: Gramps the Vamp and Urban Tropic. Brothers Drake, 26 E 5th Ave.

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. I missed them on their last trip through town during June’s Gallery Hop but I’ve got no intention of making that mistake this time.

Locals Urban Tropic open.

Show starts at 9:00. Free show.

August 5: Ursonate Guitar Quartet. Huntington Recital Hall, Capital University, 1 College Ave, Bexley, OH.

The Ursonate Guitar Quartet, named after the famous Dadaist sound-poem by Kurt Schwitters, brings together four of the finest guitarists in town. Well, three still in town (Larry Marotta, Aditya Jayanthi, and Dennis Hodges) and one visiting expat (Aaron Quinn). These four have all done work blending jazz, classical, eai, and noise and I can’t wait to see what this configuration brings in the beautiful sounding Huntington Hall at Capital.

Show starts at 6:30. Free show.

August 5: Polikarpa y Sus Viciosas. Legion of Doom, 1579 Indianola Ave. 

Legion of Doom is that rarest of things, an elder statesperson in the world of house shows. Through a combination of a forgiving landlord and good taste in residents who genuinely want to preserve this tradition – the disallowance of alcohol and drugs at the shows probably helps – it’s a rock in a scene where sometimes venues barely last a season.

Even more impressive, Legion continues to book interesting acts more commercial venues probably wouldn’t touch. This week it’s Colombian agitpunks Polikarpa y Sus Viciosas. Names for Policapra Saliverrieta, a legendary figure who was executed in the name of Colombian revolution, this group has been making fiercely political, vital music since the mid-’90s full of hard drumming and catchy, abrasive hooks. The bill’s rounded out by Philly’s Ramones-inspired Dark Thoughts and locals Surfin’ Safari.

Doors at 8:00pm. $5 donation strongly encouraged.

August 7: Locusta. Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St.

Locusta is one of my favorite metal bands in town – dense, atmospheric songs that shift from mood to mood and tempo to tempo without ever going in so proggy a direction that it loses that visceral crunch. Their blistering live show hasn’t been seen in town for over a year so expectations are high they’re going to explode on Ace of Cups’ bigger stage and strong PA.

The undercard’s not shabby here either. Lexington’s Tombstalker do some of the best punky black metal around right now, caked in grime with huge, bone-rattling riffs. Locals Fever Nest plow a different intersection between black metal and punk rock, built around mood and tension – even sporting a great Birthday Party cover. Discrow’s a little earlier in their development but I hear lots of potential in their grind.

Show starts at 9:00pm. $7 cover.

August 8-9: Festival Latino. Bicentennial Park.

Festival Latino might be my favorite festival all summer – certainly of the mainstream mass appeal fests, nothing else even comes close. The best food and the widest range of interesting music.

Especially for a total Latin music dilettante like me, I always walk away exposed to some things I really love.

Highlights from my early research I’m looking forward to:


3:00pm, Al Son del Iya: This Columbus-based act led by percussionist/bandleader El Negro Tino Casanova does smoking, sultry salsa in the Fania records mode with a repertoire that hits the classics like Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, and Celia Cruz and plays them with a remarkable fire.

4:00pm, Jose Peña Suazo y La Banda Gorda: Peña Suazo’s Banda Gorda out of the Dominican Republic plays blistering-fast merengue with extra Caribbean flavor but without losing that light, high touch. I’m not sure there’s a better band to see on a summer afternoon.

6:45, Luis Vargas: Bachata’s having a moment in the mainstream US press right now with lots of articles and think pieces about Romeo Santos, Prince Royce and Aventura. The Dominican’s Luis Vargas might not have the name recognition of those aforementioned artists but he’s wildly popular and boasts a haunting, sexy, unmistakable voice that reminds me of Raul Malo and Roy Orbison. This is not to be missed.


2:30pm, Ritmo Ondas featuring Zancudo: Rachel Sepulveda, known largely as one of Columbus’ finest jazz singers (see Jazz Columbus’ terrific interview) has always also worked in Latin forms. Ritmo Ondas is a versatile band that can hit a range of styles – I heard nothing but raves about their “From Cuba to Brazil” program at CityMusic earlier this year – and augmented by Victor Zancudo, one of this town’s fastest-rising Latin singers, this should be magical. Sepulveda’s leaving Columbus for grad school soon so don’t miss one of the last chances to see one of our finest talents.

4:15. Banda Machos: Banda music is also having a moment breaking through to other audiences, though in a smaller, more underground way than bachata discussed earlier. Banda Machos, out of the Jalisco area of Mexico, helped forge a modern style of banda through fusion with cumbia and ranchera styles. Some of the best, hardest hitting dance music you’ll see.

“Hey, Fred!” 07/27/15-08/02/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five


July 30: Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse. Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St.

This benefit for the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio brings together four fascinating artists and personalities to riff on apocalyptic themes through their true stories.

Amy Turn Sharp, local poet and organizer of Word Church, speaks about Pestilence. Amy Dalrymple, designer and proprietor of Made by AmyD, talks about War. Emily Toney, from ARC Ohio and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, discusses Famine. Amee Bell Wanzo, frontwoman of garage rock band Trachete, wraps it up with Death.

Show starts at 8:00pm. Suggested donation of $5.


July 29: Aaron Lee Tasjan and Lilly Hiatt. Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

Columbus expat Aaron Lee Tasjan’s songwriting has exploded through his stints as a vital player in NYC’s roots-rock scene – including work with Kevin Kinney, Keith Christopher, and Pat Green – and more recently in Nashville. It’s heartfelt, surprising work with big hooks and an eye for detail that reminds me of Robert Earl Keen and Jon Dee Graham and a voice that’s more his own every time I hear him.

If an occasional return of the prodigal son isn’t enough to get the roots fans out to this, the other side of that coin should be: Lilly Hiatt. Hiatt’s second album, Royal Blue, is one of my favorite discoveries of the year reminding me of early Amy Rigby with a contemporary sheen of synths and big, dark drums wrapped around rock-solid songwriting. The kind of show Natalie’s does better than anywhere else in town.

Show starts at 9:00pm. $10-15 tickets available at Vendini

July 29: Liver Quiver. Brothers Drake, 26 E 5th Ave.

Another favorite expat – of more recent vintage – also returns home this week, jazz and classical guitarist Aaron Quinn. One of my favorite of his groups, Liver Quiver, a trio with Alex Burgoyne on sax and Seth Daily on drums reunites at Brothers Drake for a Jazz Wednesday.

Liver Quiver has a unique empathy that almost reminds me of some of Chris Speed’s groups, partly because Seth Daily does the best drumming in a Jim Black mode of anyone in recent memory. It’s a little spikier and a little edgier than that free Wednesday series usually gets, drifting into both chamber music and free improv territories, but it should be as refreshing as a cold gin drink while the sun melts away through that big open door.

Show begins at 8:00pm. Free.

August 2: Natalie’s Anniversary Celebration: Bobby Floyd Trio. Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St.

I think it’s pretty clear from the volume of these writeups that I think Natalie’s has added something really special and really needed to the Columbus scene. So consider this me raising a glass to Natalie’s and to having many more anniversaries.

The whole weekend is packed with Columbus favorites that showcase the breadth of the room’s interesting booking but, and again, no surprise, I’d steer you toward our finest organist Bobby Floyd and his trio with Derek DiCenzo on guitar and Reggie Jackson on drums. As good an example of classic organ jazz as you will hear anywhere – New York, Chicago, LA – and not playing as often as they used to with both Floyd and Jackson touring with Dr. John these days. Two birds with one stone and one of the best pizzas in town.

Show starts at 8:00pm. $10 tickets available at Vendini.

August 2: Richard Thompson. Dublin Irish Festival, Perimeter Drive, Dublin, OH.

The Dublin Irish Festival is one of those things it’s easy for locals to take for granted. It’s huge – one of the biggest Irish heritage festivals in the country – and has all the problems that come along with that, but it’s gotten that huge because its organizers have spent many years and no small amount of money turning it into a well-oiled machine huge acts love to play and love to come back to.

One of the best-sounding festivals I’ve ever been to, which will be doubly important when it hosts a return appearance by British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson. While talked about more as an electric guitar virtuoso, I’ve seen him in both guises a number of times and my favorite shows are solo acoustic where he’ll highlight the newest records (the new, very good, Jeff Tweedy-produced Still and the even better Buddy Miller produced Electric from a couple years ago) but he’ll dip into his extensive catalogue, he’ll dust off surprising covers. It’s as close as I’ve ever seen a singer-songwriter come to walking on a wire (if you’ll excuse the borrowing or even if you won’t). If you love songs, storytelling, guitar playing, this is an example of the very highest peaks of those arts.

“Hey, Fred!” 07/20/15-07/26/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five [Anne Courtney Birthday Edition]

The overarching thing this week is, of course, my better half’s birthday. Happy birthday, Anne Courtney! I love you, baby. In conjunction with that, there’s a greater chance you won’t see me at these shows with the commensurate wining, dining, and fête-ing. So get out there and mix it up on my behalf. Secondarily, this continues the summer of rocking retro sounds with both some classic shit and some new artists plowing those still-fertile fields.


July 21: The Rezillos with Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Senor Citizen and the Border Patrol. Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St.

Scotland’s The Rezillos burst into the first wave of UK punk with their barbed hooks, stop-start grooves and ominous B-movie sheen. Their first record, 1978’s Can’t Stand the Rezillos is a stone classic with a similar place of pride in that early Sire Records lineup as the Dead Boys’ Young, Loud and Snotty and Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation. They reformed for periodic tours a little over a decade ago and word from everyone I’ve heard is it’s still a funny, sharp, intense show.

Rounding out Ace of Cups’ terrific coup in booking this are Columbus ’90s heroes TJSA and manager Aleks Shaulov’s Senor Citizen and the Border Patrol who are steeped in this same kind of late ’70s raw rock and roll. A rare chance to see full-stop, no-qualification-needed, legends at play in a sweaty club. Fuck what you’re doing Wednesday.

Doors at 8:00pm. $12 tickets available at http://aceofcups.ticketleap.com/rezillos/


July 22: Alice Bag with Sex Tide and Raw Pony. Cafe Bourbon Street, 2216 Summit St.

Also starting in 1976, The Bags were part of maybe the most diverse punk scene of the first wave, LA. They only put out a handful of singles and compilation tracks, most notably on Dangerhouse Records, but those few songs sent shockwaves through the nascent underground scene. And – in a “Did you love well what very soon you left” way – they continued to reverberate with band members going on to be integral parts of 45 Grave, The Gun Club, Sisters of Mercy, and Catholic Discipline.

In the intervening years, frontwoman Alice Bag wrote one of the best rock memoirs, Violence Girl. This tour bringing her to Bourbon Street finds her promoting her second book, Pipe Bomb to the Soul, culled from journals she kept on a trip to Nicaragua in 1986. This stop promises a mix of readings and songs.

Supporting Bag are two of the finest rock bands in Columbus right now, Raw Pony and Sex Tide.

Starts at 9:00pm. Alice Bag scheduled to read/play first. $5 cover.

July 24: James Cotton. Scioto Mile, 25 Marconi Blvd.

James Cotton is one of the few living links to the purifying groundwater from which most American music post-WWII sprung. Very few people still touring can say they played with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters at the height of those two legends’ powers, which is not to discredit Cotton’s own stellar work starting in the late ’60s, especially his work with pianist Otis Spann. From Sun Records through working with Johnny Winter, Cotton’s the real deal.

An unmistakable stylist, his harmonica has been copied by almost everyone to pick up a harp since but never as well. You can hear his using the harp to lead a horn section echoed in The Blasters and his throaty conjuring of other sounds in Charlie Musselwhite. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still see the real thing while you can. At 80 years old, there may not be many more chances.

Starts at 8:00pm. Free.

July 24: Pigeons with Crystalline Roses. The Summit, 2210 Summit St.

NYC’s Pigeons make a blend of introspective rock that slips between signifiers. Led by Wednesday Knudsen’s voice, guitar and occasional reeds, Galaxie 500 seems like a heavy touchpoint for this band but I also hear Spanking Charlene’s mellower moments and even some of Husker Du’s mournful aggression. Their new record, out in May, The Bower, is revelatory. Summer songs heavier on the melancholy of memory (or maybe the melancholy of memory).

Massachusetts’ Crystalline Roses is a throwback to the best stuff I heard at the height of the freak-folk era – PG Six, In Gowan Ring, B’erith, Sharron Krauss. Great, echoey songs that use their twists and turns, that use mystery, to keep that spark in them alive instead of using it to obfuscate some lack of meaning, some thing not thought through.

Doors at 9:00pm. $5 cover.

July 26: JD McPherson. Park Street Saloon, 533 Park St.

JD McPherson might have the best shot of crossing over of any roots-rock act I’ve seen in many years. A great-looking guy with an intense charisma and a live show that’s nothing short of incendiary. With his new one Let the Good Times Roll, he also finally has a record that’s as good as he is.

I saw him at Woodlands Tavern a couple years ago with a rhythm section anchored by Teen Beat from Los Straitjackets doing a set of Specialty Records-style vintage R&B and early rock and roll – despite the lazy writing you might have heard, while rockabilly’s in his toolbox, it’s not most of what he does – and it might have been the wildest, most ecstatic crowd I’ve ever seen in that club. He had that audience – especially the ladies – eating out of the palm of his hand for a set that, honestly, might have gone a little long for me but there was the very real danger he’d be torn apart if he stopped playing. I walked out of there with my shirt sticky and translucent and definitely a believer. Maybe the best dance party of the summer but, even though it’s in the more spacious Park Street Saloon this time, I wouldn’t expect it to be any less packed. Come ready to move.

Jake La Botz, Chicago blues of a more recent stripe than James Cotton referenced earlier, opens.

Starts at 9:00pm. $18 tickets available at http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=5806335

“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.