I’ve sailed the Seven Seas, prowled the Delta, relaxed on
the Puget Sound and vacationed in the Caribbean. I’ve seen some sights, heard
some sounds and gathered quite a few stories during my riverboat adventures. My home
port of Cincinnati is rich with historical myths and truths, and as I’m a bit
more than proud of this fact, I’m going to sit back, twirl my 'stache and
share with you some of my favorite tales here each week.
In this edition, we’ll stop
by King Records. Headquartered at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, King
Records first took the music world by storm back in the ‘40s when founder Syd
Nathan pioneered the sounds that would echo in the halls of the recording
studios throughout their existence. Originally a home for “hillbilly music”, King Records was also the original home of “the Godfather of Soul”, James
Brown. Yes ladies and gents, THAT James Brown.
Now, Syd and James didn't always hit it off. Their arguments hang in the air outside the original location of King Records, but, even more long-standing are the changes in music as we know it today that they created together. Syd established King Records not only as a recording studio, but also as the headquarters for the production of the records, and as such, he was able to deliver the newest sounds to radio stations faster than I've sailed down the Ohio River on a windy day.
Syd Nathan also employed black and white workers working side by side during a period of segregated prevalence in this country, and then he took it one step further. He recognized the talents and attributes of each of his artists and led them to crossing genres. Black studio musicians wailed on Honky Tonk hits and Country crooners let loose with black Pop gems. The result? Hot jams everyone in the country could enjoy and boy, did they! It's actually genius, when you think about it. And the fruit of these experiments is obvious in today's radio circuit: artists sample and gain inspiration from completely opposite artists and our little ears are blessed with the raucous, happily unexpected results.
So the next time you're getting your groove on to some jams (like tomorrow on Fountain Square!), take a moment to bask in the musical innovation that started on these very streets. I tip my captain's hat to the forebears and current leaders of rule-breaking and change. Cheers!
MidPoint Indie Summer Series :: June 109:30pm :: Neon Indian
If I had been a reclusive movie director in the 1980’s, I
would definitely have selected Neon Indian to be on the soundtrack for my
nostalgic opus entitled “Shorebound” (still in the works!). A mish-mash of
yearning half-whispers, video game sounds, and healthy amounts of synthesizer,
Neon Indian is Alan Palomo, a fittingly wistful-eyed boy from Texas. Youth,
longing, perhaps even futility seem to be calling cards for Neon Indian, but
when they are presented in such an infectious manner, it’s hard to not look on
the bright side. Cue hopeful group-shot montage and roll end credits.
8:15pm :: Oberhofer
Brad Oberhofer probably stands in line inconspicuously wherever he goes. Not so much because he wants to avoid attention,
but more likely because he’s unaware of how much he deserves it. Oberhofer, a
self-described “kid from Tacoma”, melds his West Coast-nonchalance with antsy,
exhilarating, roller-coaster-like sensibilities, throwing lots of sliding
guitar rhythms and driving drum lines around with abandon, letting everything
settle down into a kaleidoscope of emotions and noise. I highly suggest
watching the chips fall and grabbing a piece or two of the awesome that is
7:00pm :: Sacred Spirits
It’s hard to describe minimalism. Sometimes, a flick of the
wrist or whispered word is all it takes to convey a myriad of emotion. Sacred
Spirits is the sonic embodiment of this intangible. This trio of fellows from
right here in Cincinnati doesn’t take the easy way out by coasting on the
sparse groundwork they’ve laid for themselves. Instead, they acutely punctuate
their lo-fi approach to music with poignant vocals, guitars that ebb and flow
accordingly, and pockets of intensity that belie Sacred Spirits’ understated
presence. I’ll be in the front row on Fountain Square, watching these boys do
it up right through my monocle.
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