Monday morning notebook

Jun 18, 2012

It’s less than a month before the Bunbury Festival kicks off July 13 for its three-day run on the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati.

Creator Bill Donabedian, one of the co-founders of the MidPoint Music Festival years ago, has no intention of starting small, then trying to build for the future. There are more than 100 acts scheduled on the event’s six stages (see Set Times under the Music & More button on the website to plan your viewing schedule).

For a first-time event, the lineup is impressive. The credentials of the three headliners – Jane’s Addiction (Friday), Weezer (Saturday) and Death Cab for Cutie (Sunday) – are impeccable, but it’s the depth that might be more intriguing. Much of that talent is local, including Wussy, 500 Miles to Memphis, the Tillers, the Sundresses, the Seedy Seeds and Messerly & Ewing (featuring Donabedian on drums).

Here are five personal favorites: 

  • Tristen (2:15 p.m. Friday, Bud Light Stage). The highlight of last year’s MidPoint Music Festival for me, Tristen Gaspadarek’s short (no song is longer than four minutes on the album “Charlatans at the Garden Gate”), powerhouse pop songs will have you on your feet from the first note.
  • Ra Ra Riot (6:45 p.m. Friday, Bud Light Stage) Any group that features cello and violin always adds a touch of class and some diversity to the bill. 
  • Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (8:30 p.m. Friday, AliveOne Stage) Fans of the Brown County, Ind., country blues troupe get another chance to hear the band’s unique sound after they headline this Friday’s WNKU music stage at Paddlefest at Coney Island. The Reverend will likely preview songs from their new project “Between the Ditches,” which hits stores Aug. 7.
  • Alberta Cross (1:30 p.m. Saturday, Globili Stage) Three years and three new band members after the breakthrough “Broken Side of Time,” the Brooklyn band fronted by Petter Ericson Stakee will release “Songs of Patience” July 17.
  • Will Hoge (6:45 p.m. Sunday, CMC Stage) The Nashville singer-songwriter has built a solid body of work over seven albums, including appropriately enough, last year’s “Number Seven.” Hoge has more than a hint of alt-country twang, but when he fronts his band, it’s a rock ’n’ roll show.

Reverend Peyton headlines Paddlefest

The Big Damn Band isn’t the only highlight on the Roots on the River music stage at Paddlefest that begins at 5 p.m. Friday night at Coney Island.

Here’s the entire lineup: Jake Speed & the Freddies, Tex Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys, the Lewis Brothers, Magnolia Mountain and Reverend Peyton.

Landreth puts on guitar clinic

Slide guitar master Sonny Landreth straddled two worlds during his show at the 20th Century in Oakley last week. 

The Louisiana legend, who recently released the all-instrumental “Elemental Journey,” began the show with three instrumentals, including “Wonderide” from the new album. Landreth’s skills are so superb that it seems like he isn’t even trying; he might as well be “brushing his teeth,” as an audience neighbor remarked.

That’s not a criticism, just a fact. Landreth is a humble and appreciative performer, regularly thanking the crowd for its applause, and on more than one occasion, recognizing cohorts Dave Ranson on bass and Brian Brignac on drums for a job done very well.

The dilemma arises when Landreth switches from the almost jazz-like coolness of the instrumental tunes to the swampy, Cajun-laced blues tunes that lend themselves to a sweaty,  backwoods barroom where people love to dance. Even in the air-conditioned confines of the 20th Century, a dozen or so mostly female patrons were more than ready to oblige when the music changed from guitar pyrotechnics to a bass- and drums-driven beat of songs such as “Blue Tarp Blues” and “USS Zydecoldsmobile.”

In the grand scheme, to get people moving or have them stare somewhat slack-jawed at the star’s virtuosity is not a real problem. And it can be interesting to watch dedicated dancers try to find a repeatable rhythm in some of the “Elemental” tunes.

Either way, a night with Landreth and his band is a journey worth taking.

Cook returns to 'Late Show' 

Elizabeth Cook returned to “The Late Show” last week to perform “Hear Jerusalem Calling” from her “Gospel Plow” EP that was released digitally June 12. The singer, who charmed David Letterman during her first appearance last August, then performed Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Vally” and “Pancho and Lefty” with Jason Isbell for a “Live on Letterman” Internet bonus.

Potter tells her story on VH1

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, who released “The Lion the Beat the Beat” June 12, were featured on VH1’s “Storytellers” last Friday.

Potter told the audience about the doubts that crept into her mind while the band was recording the album, and her decision to abandon the project for more than a month while she took off alone to write new songs and search for a sign that she was on the right track.

If the show’s performance is any indication, it appears she saw a sign (apologies to Ace of Base).

Album of the week

"In the Time of Gods," Dar Williams. The veteran singer-songwriter uses Greek mythology as a jumping off point for her ninth studio album. Don’t worry, however: you don’t need a degree in classics to enjoy the 10 new tunes. 

But it probably does help to be a fan going in. There is nothing drastically different musically or lyrically from her earlier records. So if you like Williams, you will like these songs. Will the project make new fans? That’s hard to say, but those who are intrigued have a chance to see for themselves when she plays the Redmoor in Mount Lookout Saturday night.

Highlights include “The Light and the Sea,” “You Will Ride with Me Tonight” and “Summer Child,” three uptempo numbers that feature Williams’ shimmering voice and the skills of top-notch session players including Rob Hyman on piano and Larry Campbell on dobro, plus Shawn Colvin singing harmony on “Light.” 

Email Bill Thompson