Come Meet The National at The Esquire Theatre!

Mistaken for StrangersIn the next few days the Esquire Theatre will be hosting two special events in connection with the premier of Mistaken for Strangers, the new rockumentary about Cincinnati’s own The National. Subtitled “A year on tour with my brother’s band,” the movie had been referred to as a comedic documentary for reasons that – judging by the trailer – have to do with the tensions that result when one member of the band is a rock star (Tom Berninger) and one member isn’t (the film director, Matt Berninger). Both the rock star and his brother will discuss the outcome of their year on the road together during the Q&A events taking place at the Esquire this Friday, March 28th, and next Monday, March 31st.

Friday’s live Skype Q&A with Matt Berninger and Tom Berninger will take place after the 7:30pm screening. The event will be hosted by Jeff Thomas from the Jeff & Jen show on Q102. Tickets for the event can be purchased here or at the Esquire’s ticket office.

After Monday’s 7:30pm screening Jim Blase from Shake-It Records will host a live Q&A with Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger and the drummer for The National, Bryan Devendorf. Tickets for this event can be purchased here or at the Esquire ticket office.Both events are being presented in conjunction with Shake It Records. I should note here that Mistaken for Strangers will be a full-run movie at the Esquire, so if you can’t make it to one of the Q&A events, you’ll have plenty of other times to see it. Also, ticket’s for Monday’s event are going FAST, but there are still plenty of seats for Friday’s event.  The trailer suggests the film will have plenty of backstage humor along with exciting live footage:


The Grand Budapest Hotel is at the Esquire

grand-budapest-hotelThe new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now showing at the Esquire Theatre. This highly anticipated film was packed on its first weekend, and it was clear from Friday night’s show that this new work by a unique director lived up to its expectations. There was plenty of laughter as well as the cries an audience makes when characters fall off cliffs or dodge bullets. What makes Wes Anderson such an interesting director is the fact that he can make an art film that after a half-hour of setting up some highly formalized frame narration turns out to be hilarious, fast-paced, and action-packed, complete with chase scenes, slapstick humor and bizarre visual effects that wouldn’t have been out of place in an old Buster Keaton silent film. Some wildly imaginative storytelling also gives the film an old-fashioned air (with, of course, a post-modernist spin). In summary, if you see The Grand Budapest Hotel, expect to be entertained. Due to demand it’s showing in two different rooms, and the times are 12:00. 12:40 1:10, 2:10 2:50 3;20, 4:20, 4:55. 5:30, 6:30, 7:10, 8:40, 9:20, and 9:50.  Here’s the trailer:


Arrietty Is a New Store on Ludlow

ArriettyA couple new stores have popped up on Ludlow Avenue recently. One was the vintage store Lentz and Company, and last week saw the opening of Arrietty, a children’s shop located directly across the street from the Esquire Theatre (as my highly-reflective photograph makes clear)  at 325 Ludlow Avenue.

The owner of the store, Etsuko Adachi, is a long-term Clifton resident – long enough that, when we talked, she waxed nostalgic about New World Bookship. Etsuko emphasized that the store isn’t just for girls (“I have two sons,” she explained) or for that matter young children.

For example, high school girls might be interested in the purses, which are handmade:

Arrietty Handmade Purses








While talking to Etsuko I noticed on the wall behind the counter a stylish piece of electronics that would appeal to many adults. The space-efficient Muji CD player appeals to those of us who want to free up some room at the same time that it has a neat modernist design – enough so that the Museum of Modern Art added the Muji CD player to its collection.

Muji CD Player








Etsuko said that the name of the store was inspired by a character in a movie involving a movie director who now has a film at the Esquire Theatre, an animated feature called The Wind Rises. Such a huge coincidence suggests that Arrietty was meant to be on Ludlow Avenue. The hours are:  Monday closed; Tuesday to Saturday 12:00 to 7:00; Sunday 12:00 to 4:00.

Clifton 005   Clifton 006 Clifton 010

Rare King Records Gem Reissued on Vinyl

Lula ReedLula Reed is a rhythm and blues singer who recorded for King Records during the same period when James Brown, Little Willie John and Hank Ballard were active. She never became as well-known as these artists, nor was she as prolific. In fact, along with some singles on King and Federal (and, later, a couple other labels), she only recorded one album, Blue and Moody. This 1958 gem consisted of singles that were recorded for King between 1951 and 1956. It wasn’t a best-selling record, and I suspect there are many people who like the King Records sound who’ve never heard the album. Therefore I was pleased to learn that Blue and Moody was just released on vinyl by Sundazed, a label with a long history of putting high-quality reissues of both well-known and obscure old gems. Mastered from the original analog session tapes and pressed at RTI, the LP is on 180-gram vinyl. With some of the more soulful vocals you’ll ever hear and great songwriting by King mainstays Sonny Thompson, Henry Glover and others, Blue and Moody more than deserves such red-carpet treatment.  It’s worth adding that original copies of this album are insanely rare, and they do not come cheap, making the release of a good-sounding reissue on vinyl all the sweeter. Here’s a recording of Lula Reed singing “I’ll Drown in My Own Tears,” a song that was later a big hit for Ray Charles:

Ten Favorite Bogart’s Concerts: The Honorable Mentions

Bogarts-logoA month ago (or was it longer?) I promised a list of my ten favorite Bogart’s shows. A long processions of phone calls from people who wanted me to help promote upcoming events—which I’m always happy to do—delayed the process, but now I’m finally ready to share my top ten.

Or almost, anyway. Before I delve into the best of the best, I should mention some of the shows that that didn’t make the top ten but were memorable for one reason or another. My  honorable mentions would include the following:

Human Switchboard. A Cleveland band I’ll always associate with the early days of punk or new wave or whatever you want to call what was happening then.

John Cale. His show ended with a full-throttle rendition of “Mercenaries (Ready for War)” that made a lot of sense at the time (and still does).

Sonny Rollins. Boy am I glad that I went to this show. It taught me how much I didn’t know. Although I loved Sonny’s earlier work in a bebop vein, I was blasé about his later stuff. On the first song of the second set, “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” Sonny displayed an endless supply of energy and creativity for fifteen or twenty minutes. Truly a jazz god.

Casual Gods. Jerry Harrison from the Talking Heads wasn’t much of a vocalist, and that wasn’t my only misgiving about the show. It was the only chance I’ve had, however, to see guitarist Chris Spedding whose resume includes work with Jack Bruce and The Sex Pistols.

Charlatans UK. It surprises me what a sparse crowd there was for this show, as Some Friendly was a hit with the college rock crowd and Between 10th and 11th was just as good. Catchy pop tunes with a hint of psychedelia.

Iggy Pop. Those who know his work better wouldn’t have been surprised to hear him break out “Louie Louie” when I first saw him in the early 1980s, but I certainly was, and I got great pleasure out of hearing him thrash that one out. That was the same show where, at 2am, the power went off and all you could see were exit lights.

Everything But the Girl. I was shocked to learn that EBTG was coming to Cincinnati. Although I’m not as fond of the more club-oriented sound the band eventually developed, there’s nothing they could do to make me not love them. Toward the middle of the show the band shut off the rhythm machine and played two wondrous cuts off Idlewild, the second being Ben Watt’s “Caruso.” I’m glad that the college and young professional crowd (who in Cincinnati chatted through the entire concert) tapped into EBTG—otherwise the band never would have come to Bogart’s. Still, I have to think that their jazzier early sound could have connected with a much wider audience.

Sonic Youth. When I saw this band they were touring on the heels of 1992’s Dirty. For me the tune that stuck out most was “Youth Against Facism,” which I hadn’t heard yet, but it resonated instantly.

King Crimson. Had Bill Bruford been on hand, this show would have made my top ten list for sure, but the drummer that night was a mere mortal. That was the second time I saw Crimson, and this gave me a much deeper appreciation for Robert Fripp’s guitar playing in the post-Red era.

King Sunny Ade. A fabulous show; I also caught them at the zoo.

JJ Cale. Of the three concerts I saw by JJ Cale, one was pure magic while the two others (one at Bogart’s) were merely great. Actually some of my top ten shows are by artists I don’t like nearly as well as JJ Cale but who brought something very special on the evening that I happened to catch them.

White Stripes. Although there were only two musicians in the band, the White Stripes had such a huge, billowing sound that Bogart’s almost seemed to small for it! The show included a cover of Dylan’s “Love Sick” on which Jack White played keyboards.

Before I go the top ten, I also want to sneak in some official awards for past Bogart’s concerts:

The loudest show: Ministry.

Most entertaining show. Mojo Nixon/Skid Roper. They played upstairs, and Mojo was absolutely nuts. At one point he started banging rhythms on a water jug, and then—taking advantage of the short ceilings upstairs—he bounced the jug off the floor so hard that the jug in turn bounced off the ceiling and landed back in his hands. He did this without pause and repeatedly, and right on the beat! Surreal. After the show I asked him to sign my harmonica case, and he did. First, though, he rubbed it on his tallywacker.

The smokiest show. Mudvayne. I believe that show was sold out, and if I’m not mistaken every single person in the club was smoking that evening…except for me.

The biggest bunch of attitude: Ministry and Wolfgang Press. The way these two bands walked off the stage without acknowledging the crowd and in fact acted dismissive toward the people who came out to see them inspired me to quickly sell their records back to Mole’s.

Best opening act. Tracy Chapman opening for 10,000 Maniacs. This was, for the Maniacs, the In My Tribe tour, which is the only time you got to hear them play “Peace Train” live. Tracy, who played solo and was hard to hear over a chatty crowd, closed with “Talkin’ bout a Revolution.” I saw her shortly thereafter with a full band opening for Neil Young at Riverbend, but I found her solo performance in a smaller setting more powerful.

Most unusual performer. Timothy Leary saw fit to visit Cincinnati and talk about turning on, tuning in and dropping out. He definitely had a sense of humor about it all, however—in fact, I think he always did.

Best 1-man band. I liked how Michael Hedges strutted out to the front of the stage while exuding confidence that one acoustic guitar and a voice could provide entertainment for an entire evening. No gimmicks, no light show, no electronics, no flashy American Idol type persona—just music…and it worked.

 The Bogart’s show I most wish I’d seen but didn’t. There’s been much talk over the years about some of the mythical Bogarts shows by folks like The Police, U2 and Prince. The band I most wish I’d seen there, however, was Shakti w/John McLaughlin, who had just released Natural Elements. I almost made it to that show—and then heard detailed accounts from people who made it clear that I had missed something extraordinary. I did catch him a couple years later with a band that included L. Shankar (from Shakti) in the band, and they played a duet from a Shakti album.


Classical Revolution at the Northside Tavern Sunday

Classical Revolution CincinnatiClassical Revolution Cincinnati is a free music series that takes place every second Sunday at the Northside Tavern. The series is part of a global movement that offers chamber music performances in places other than concert halls. At 8 pm on Sunday, March 9 a concert will take place that will include the world premier of Mark Lehman’s “Sonatina for Two Violins,” which will be performed by Harvey Thurman and Amy Kiradjieff.  Mark is an old friend who has been the music editor of The Absolute Sound since 2009 and has been reviewing classical music for the American Record Guide for decades. Mark currently has three pieces on commercial CDs: a song cycle called “Pilgrim Songs,” a set of “Three Souvenirs” for flute and piano, and a toccata for piano on the anthology Touch: The Toccata Project. “Conundrum,” a piece for voice, flute, clarinet, and piano, is due out on CD this Spring.  

Lehman is particularly drawn to the clarity of instrumental duos, which give the composer both the opportunity and the challenge to write music in which every note can be heard and every note matters. He calls his violin duo a “sonatina” not because it’s short or easy to play, but rather to reflect its neoclassic aesthetic, its use of traditional forms and procedures, and its basically optimistic, high-spirited mood. The composers that he most admires and have most influenced him in this piece as in all his music are Bartok, Hindemith—and Mozart. 

The classical concerts at the Northside Tavern have been a hit, offering a unique experience for listening to classical music and visiting a bar. In a Cincinnati Enquirer article bartender Beth Harris said of the series, “These nights are different. Delightful, very mellow. I didn’t know people drank so much wine.” To get you in the mood, here’s  footage from a lovely Classical Revolution performance by Brickmeat, a saxophone duo: