This may be the first time that anyone writing for this blog has started an entry with a direct venue complaint. The following is with great consideration and apprehension for that matter, but I know I’m not alone amongst those in attendance last Wednesday:
Dear Rumba Cafe, despite having amazing sound, an intimate setting and outdoor space to explore, your venue has provided my most awful venue experience since I have managed tours with broke, unknown bands. I mean Carbondale or West Memphis bad!
Personally, I always watch a show from as far away as possible. No, I’m not suffering from agoraphobia, but rather because I don’t pay to see shows, I’m not a good photographer AND its the true fans who deserve to be front and center with the best view. As a result you can almost always find me at the furthest corner of the bar, attentively listening to the music, but more watching the crowd than the stage. Therefore, it wasn’t a shock to me when an audience member, during the opening act nonetheless, turned around between songs and berated the bar staff.
Rumba Cafe, you are absolutely doing something wrong. Your staff needs to know they work at a music venue and some shows are going to be subdued. This means your door girl shouldn’t be cackling over the music to tell the bartenders whatever dipshit pseudo-hipster thing she did today on her fixed gear bike en route to CCAD. Now, if the venue wasn’t packed and the audience not engaged you would just be thoughtless assholes, but because the show was an obvious fiscal success, your staff are officially clueless twats.
Have you not explained to them how difficult it is to turn a profit as a music venue? Insulting the patrons by chatting over an act they came to see will disenfranchise the fans, scare away the novice and force artists to pass on playing at Rumba Cafe (Columbus for that matter) on the next tour.
Despite my complaints, I do love the venue itself and greatly appreciate the aggressive booking of lesser known acts. And I apologize if you are offended by the fact that I hold you to higher standards than PromoWest. However, all will be for not unless you train your staff to respect all genres of music and tend bar accordingly. After all, it is about the music right?!
Now that is settled, its time to discuss the accidental star of the evening Frank Fairfield. While he was wrapping up his set with an intense rendition of “Rye Whiskey” I scribbled the following in my notepad:
Frank Fairfield reminds me of the instrumental brilliance of Andrew Bird or Townes Van Zandt, while encompassing the enthusiasm-lacking storytelling ability of Johnny Cash with the styling of Mark Twain (visually and verbally).
At the beginning of this video you can hear someone ask him: “Is it fair to say you just weren’t made for these times?”
Frank’s response: “I think everything’s just as it should be.”
I thoroughly agree. While my knowledge of early Americana folk music, steel guitars vs. banjo or Appalachian vs deep south is basically limited to Leadbelly matters not. And I’m not going to write a piece trying to decipher the true origins of a musician being able to seamless flow from acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle. However, I will say that hearing Frank Fairfield perform is one of the more memorable experiences of my self-serving musical pilgrimage.
Frank Fairfield is not living in another time or some retro throwback. He is a musician making the music that he loves regardless of what is current. He isn’t out to exploit the folk niche by making shirts without graphics, shoes made out of real leather or a big bushy mustache cool. Its simply who he is and honestly there is nothing more rewarding than to see him perform… “just as it should be.”
The transition from Frank Fairfield to Horse Feathers was seamless and it appears the entire audience was right back front and center as soon as they took the stage. Despite a number of bands performing relatively similar music there is a unique, lovely sincerity in Justin Ringle’s voice.
I find the strings help supplement the softness of the vocals and bring a more intense dynamic, preventing the songs from becoming lullabies. And as Ringle’s voice defines Horse Feathers, even the greatest things need to be consumed in small portions as not to overdose. Horse Feathers appears to have the equation down to a science, allowing songs that focus heavily on the vocals to develop instrumentally throughout the song only to end in a large crescendo or blend into the next track with an more upbeat tempo all together. Horse Feathers recordings and live sets are identically beautiful and flawless and if you haven’t seen them on tour check out the dates via Kill Rock Stars.
When I arrived at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion around 8:30pm on Saturday I was relatively shocked that there wasn’t a line of concert goers waiting to have their id’s checked and bags searched. However, upon entering the venue it became quite obvious why. An all ages show in Columbus, is seriously ALL AGES! Whomever dropped these kids off got them the fuck out of the house as early as possible! I knew based on my curmudgeon “I’m judging you” attitude toward the obviously drunk middle schooler puking in the open bathroom stall half submerged in toilet overflow that I may be slightly out of my element, so I immediately made my way to the bar.
The GREAT thing about an all ages show? Kids pay substantially inflated prices for beer AND no lines! Ok, so I didn’t scalp drinks like tickets on Saturday, but I had enough to drown the ageist social awkwardness just in time for Youngblood Hawke’s set.
What to say about Youngblood Hawke? Well, they have a hit.
Personally, I’m not loving the auto-tune or the childlike harmonies/chrorus and I’m a bit perplexed with the exotic locale and sky high ($$$) production value of that video. Obviously someone has a bit of cash to throw around which garnered my interest further so I did me some good ole fashioned research… Wikipedia!
Holy shit, two of these guys were in Iglu and Hartly, who I now remember from the Stride party at SXSW in 2010. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, simply have a listen.
The transition from hipster-hop/rap-rock to electro-pop doesn’t require much if you can write a catchy song. It probably doesn’t hurt that someone is connected enough to get the first project on Mercury Records and then the second on Universal Republic. Luck? Talent? Other? Despite being far from a pioneer of any specific genre, the gentlemen and lady in Youngblood Hawke have a catchy single on their hands. It may not be a game changer the likes of Pumped Up Kicks or Sleepyhead, but I highly doubt this will be their last time visiting Columbus… well, maybe as an opener.
Passion Pit took the stage almost immediately after Youngblood Hawke, opening their set with a pitch perfect rendition of Take a Walk. Opening the set with the single off the newest album was exceptionally significant for someone who has been listening to Passion Pit from the Frenchkiss Records days. To me it shows that they aren’t going to burn through all the old material at the beginning of the show while people aren’t quite at full attention, just to berate you with the new material when fans really start getting involved. Even more impressive, Passion Pit ended their set with his first official single Sleepyhead (my personal introduction to the band).
Whether or not these occurrences are of a strategic nature matters little to the actual fan. Creating a comfortable atmosphere (promptly taking stage, not complaining about sound) and playing what your fans want to hear (not what you think they should want to hear) has obviously cultivated and expanded Passion Pit’s fanbase. When you honestly think about it, the best part about being a fan of a band was the discovery process, promptly followed by sharing with your friends. And regardless of how BIG a band becomes, if they take a lesson from Passion Pit, the fanbase will simply grow with them and turn into something rarely achieved… a career making music.
The route for most Detroit musicians to Columbus takes about three and a half hours, only passing through the far-from-exciting cities of Toledo and Findlay. However, for Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, better known as “Rodriguez”, the route from Detroit to the stage at the Wexner Center instead took three and half decades with stops in Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and South Africa… at least that’s where his music toured.
Immediately, one should point out the recent success of Charles Bradley, the 60+ year old soul singer who shot to fame in a very similar manner, which will be briefly pointed out when applicable.
Rodriguez released his only two studio albums, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality, in 1970 and 1971 respectively. Unfortunately both albums fell on def ears stateside, however by the end of the decade the albums (in addition to rumors Rodriguez was deceased) gained enough traction in Australia to warrant minimal touring. Unfortunately, this is where Rodriquez’s career ended and he soon returned to Detroit, earned a college degree and entered a life of relative normalcy.
Unbeknownst to Rodriguez, as he settled into life as a family man, those same albums (among rumors that the musician had killed himself onstage as political protest) were becoming cult sensations in South Africa, feeding the country’s political and social discourse. In 1998, Rodriguez’s daughter came across a website dedicated to her deceased father’s music and immediately brought it to his attention. The result were multiple tours, documentaries, live albums and the fame and success he had always deserved, albeit mostly limited to South Africa.
Despite past attention, the new “revival” of Rodriguez’s musical career is the subject matter of the 2012 critically acclaimed documentary “Searching for Sugar Man.”
Charles Bradley had a similar documentary debut at SXSW in 2012. However, Soul of America more or less chronicles what its like for Bradley to receive his big break so late in life, not necessarily bringing someone back from the grave. Additionally, and oddly enough, Bradley also shares a “Sugar Man” parallel, as its the name of the retro-funk band in which he contributes vocals.
Rodriguez’s film documents the efforts of two South African fans who attempt to refute the Rodriguez suicide rumors (arguably already well documented) and discover what had become of the cult hero. The film took home the World Cinema Documentary and Special Jury awards from the Sundance Film Festival and brought him to the forefront of the coveted American audience, bringing us back to Columbus.
Rodriguez took the stage Thursday night on the campus of The Ohio State University before a sold out and appreciative crowd for an hour long solo acoustic set. Not only was he flawless as he ran through tracks from his only two studio albums such as “Sugar Man”, “I Wonder” and “Rich Folks Hoax” but it was his fearless artistic freedom with famous covers that unexpectedly impressed. Upon declaring “I do covers… because I’m a musician” the 70+ year old Rodriguez (who could easily have played the role of Randy in The Wrestler) threw in renditions of “Blue Suede Shoes” and fellow motor city musician, Little Willie John’s “Fever.”
Between songs, the self proclaimed “Musical Political” graciously bantered with the audience about the upcoming election and the political machine in Detroit. While he cracked jokes and genuinely entertained the standing room only crowd, it was hard to believe that he was recently deemed “urban Bob Dylan” by Detroit Funk Legend Dennis Coffey (co-produced Cold Fact). It’s a complement in and of itself, given Dylan’s catalog and enduring popularity, however seeing as how I find Dylan’s latest offering barely listenable due to the state of the man’s voice, Rodriguez is far more than that half-ass analogy. Rodriguez is a uniquely talented artist whose somewhat spoken-word style of delivery and clever word play is delivered with an honesty that is lost on today’s hipster-era take on folk music heavy on mandolin, light on substance.
Whether or not the phenomenon of Rodriguez is a marketing ploy the likes of Charles Bradley is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, Rodriguez’s self-effacing demeanor on stage suggests a man who, in his heart, is truly grateful to be playing for captive audiences close to home. And while I could understand every word that came out of his mouth, some may have spoken more powerfully than others: “I wonder how much goin’ have you got and I wonder about your friends that are not.”
Live Review By,
Its not very often you have two headlining acts, playing different venues on the same night in the same town, combine forces at the last minute to share a stage and fan bases. Last night Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were set to headline at The Basement and Divine Fits were to do the same at Newport Music Hall. Assuming, due to sluggish sales the folks at Promowest decided to put both bands on the larger stage at Newport bringing each of the opening acts along for the ride. As a result we got four bands on a Wednesday night and the inevitable jockeying for headlining respect… needless to say I never lost sight of the nearest exit.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is obviously a band from another era, playing heavy guitar driven rock n roll impressive for any three piece. Imagine what Green Day would/should sound like if they weren’t awful and refused to perform tracks reminiscent of the dookie days. JSBE did have a large and attentive stage-hugging crowd and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall sound and stage presence displayed by the weathered showmen. Nevertheless, nothing actually exploded (bummer) and the true blues of the evening was probably having to open for Divine Fits, which I suspect is why they took so long getting off the stage. Way to stick it to the man!
True-to-form headliners, Divine Fits (horrible band name) have been referred to as a “supergroup” which absolutely needs to be addressed. What is a supergroup? Well, when interviewed by CD102.5 when the band was in town last August, they scoffed at the idea and referred to themselves as a super, group… as in “its super duper fun to be in Divine Fits.” Now before we get nerdy and crunch some numbers let’s all reflect on the last indie rock supergroup that changed the landscape of popular music forever:
First and foremost, Divine Fits only have 3 official members and despite being from Columbus, drummer Sam Brown’s resume isn’t impressing anyone. Dan Boeckner on the other hand, experienced some success with Wolf Parade though they never had a top 40 album (thiiiis close). Boeckner’s next project, Handsome Furs, really isn’t known for much despite all the provocative half-naked promo pics with his wife and band mate Alexei. GRRRRRR
Britt Daniel, best known for his work with Spoon, is the final member of Divine Fits and obviously the most successful. Spoon’s last release, Transference debuted at #4 on the Billboard charts, but it only moved 54,000 units in its first week… womp womp. However, GA GA GA has sold 300,000+ copies to date and only reached #9. So its official, Brit Daniel would be qualified to join a supergroup, but his pals certainly are not, mystery solved!
Oh, and in regards to their performance, here’s how Divine Fits opened there set last night… cool visuals of the iPod commercial variety.
We recently received a letter written by Stephen stating that White Rabbits had replaced drummer Jamie Levinson with Dave Scalia. However interesting, this didn’t initially appear to have an effect on the dual percussion heavy sound associated with the band and often accredited to influencing the plethora of floor tom banging indie acts… until we read the letter further.
White Rabbits also confirmed that they’d be touring only as a five piece with members taking their turn on bass. We assumed this meant if a track required bass and piano we would be relegated to one man, newest member of the band, playing a single kit on his lonely island. This concept would “frighten” any fan who has seen the band live in recent years and enjoys the big band era vibe of songs such as “Percussion Gun.” We always assumed this specific track to require two full kits or at bare minimum some sort of auxiliary drumming.
We were wrong. Not only did Scalia keep time perfectly, though bass was played facing the drummer, but the overall sound seemed succinct and nothing was noticeably missing. Check out this iPhone video from the show and let us know what you think. The letter from the band in its entirety may be found further below.
stephen here. i wanna take a moment to let you all know about a few changes within the band. if you’ve come out to any of our shows over the past few months you might have noticed that there’s some missing and some new members onstage. same deal if you’ve seen the video for “i’m not me”. i regret not filling all of you in earlier, but to be honest, we weren’t entirely sure how we were gonna proceed until very recently.
so here we are. the most obvious change has been the absence of our beloved bald drummer jamie levinson. jamie’s been with us for over 6 years, and although we thought he was already great at being our embarrassing dad, he and his wife are starting a family of their own. they’re expecting their first child any day now as a matter of fact. we love jamie and will miss him beyond belief.. but we’re of course very happy for him and wish him nothing but the best.
after searching for a new drummer for a very long couple months, we found dave scalia. he’s a pretty good drummer i guess, but we were mostly impressed by his freakishly long hands and extensive collection of gray cardigans. he’s a young boy so be nice to him.
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