Monty says...No Parking on the Dance Floor!
Once upon a time, it was the 1980's. Big hair, bad shoes, and discovery of the synthesizer led to an interesting period in music. We've explored how Cincinnati made it's mark in various arenas throughout the years, and rest assured, this decade was also touched by musicians with prominent ties to our Queen City. Leaving the hair-metal bands and New Wave pop music aside, we're turning our eyes towards the R&B/funk/hip-hop sensation that burst onto the scene.
Under my magnifying monocle this round is genre-dabbling band Midnight Star. Formed in 1976 in Frankfort, Kentucky, Midnight Star was initially composed of seven Kentucky State University students, including: Reggie Calloway, Melvin Gentry, Belinda Lipscomb, Kenneth Gant, Bo Watson, Bill Simmons and Jeff Cooper. Most prominently involved in this dance-funk-R&B outfit was Reggie Calloway, later a successful producer in his own right. The group garnered attention during a New York City showcase and were signed to SOLAR Records. Calloway's younger brother Vincent joined the group as well, and soon they were churning out R&B-charting singles, including "Hot Spot" and "I've Been Watching You".
The band hit the big time with their fourth album, No Parking On The Dance Floor, released in 1983. This album spawned the single "Freak-A-Zoid" (check it out for some innovative early-80s computer animation, not to mention the synthesized-robot-funk awesomeness), my personal favorite, "No Parking (On the Dance Floor)", hit "Slow Jam" (produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, of Cincinnati-based The Deele) and their only Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 hit, "Operator". The band achieved gold, platinum, and double-platinum success with multiple albums before the Calloway brothers left in the mid-1980s, forming their own successful R&B duo, Calloway (of "I Wanna Be Rich" fame). In the late-1980s, Cincinnati's own Ultrasuede Studio, then known as QCA Studio, served as Reggie Calloway's recording home base. Fun note: the music video for US R&B Top Ten hit "Don't Rock the Boat", off their 1988, self-titled album, was filmed at the Loveland Canoe Rental on the Little Miami River.
Midnight Star went on an extended hiatus after the 1990 release of their album Work It Out. The members of Midnight Star went on to pursue various other projects in the following years. Gentry and Watson notably joined together as production partners, working with the likes of Toni Braxton and the same Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds on her two of her tours and his MTVUnplugged concert, respectively. Lipscomb went on to enjoy success in the theater with musical and commercial appearances. In 2000, the band reunited and soon released a new album in 2002. Their current incarnation tours occasionally, with five of the original members present.
The beautiful thing about this period of time in music, particularly in our fair city, was the collaboration and tie-ins bands had with one another. The music scene and atmosphere in Cincinnati continues to breed this camaraderie to this day - it's prevalent on our bar-venue circuit, along with the showcase of this very series and festival and festivals that occur throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. Support local music, check out a show and leave inspired.
MidPoint Indie Summer Series :: July 29
9:30pm :: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Sometimes while sailing, I seek an oasis on the horizon that promises a breath of fresh air. The same happens while listening to music, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists fit the bill to a "T". A quartet from Washington, D.C., these boys exemplify the perfect harmony that is indie-punk rock. Eager and in-your-face guitar, steady bass lines, persistent drums, and the passionate yelp of frontman Ted Leo interplay consistently. That's not to say TL/Rx are formulaic; they meld punk sensibilities (those driving hard drums and heavy bass) with subtle indie sway (Leo's informed, political lyrics and addicting melodies), and the result is a pill that's easy to swallow. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are returning MPMF alums (they rocked Southgate House for MPMF.10, and are returning this year for MPMF.11) and I couldn't be happier to have them at the helm for this week's Indie Summer Series.
8:15pm :: Tweak Bird
Every now and then, when I'm out navigating the river, where it's all serene and peaceful, I like to punch the air with something unexpected, something loud, something trippy. That would be Tweak Bird. How to describe this Illinois brother-duo... blues-infused heavy rock? Metal cum art-prog-rock? Choose what descriptors you may, the point is, these guys run the gamut from heavy-handed intensity (with throbbing, fuzzy guitar and relentless drumming) to pseudo-psychedelia (with octave-straining screeches and random guest instrument appearances) while maintaining an aura of shaggy-haired accessibility. I will be melting my monocle off front and center during their set. Join me.
7:00pm :: Belle Histoire
Jumping off the deck of my riverboat into the inviting waters of the Ohio River is one of my favorite things. Puns are another of my favorite things. Only the first one reminds me of Belle Histoire. This Cincinnati-grown group exudes confidence and vulnerability, most notably via pianist/vocalist Jane Smith's plaintive, powerfully emotional delivery. Rising percussive punctuation, haunting piano, and solid guitar and bass lines weave a soundscape that can best be described as ethereal-indie-pop. For a band with a relatively short history of being a band, these men-and-a-lady are creating cohesive, intriguing tunes that you don't want to miss. Seriously.
The 2011 MidPoint Music Festival Band page is up - more to come!! Check out artist photos, bios, links and even free downloads!
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