Monday morning notebook

Jul 16, 2012

Thank you Bill Donabedian. The founder and public face of the Bunbury Music Festival put together a great team that produced a top-notch event in the face of some obstacles. Now, do it again next year – please.

Donabedian will have to decide if the numbers supported the effort, but there’s no  doubt that the first Bunbury was an artistic success. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t know 80 percent or more of the performers.

What was obvious, though, was a smoothly run event that was geared to the fans. Prices were reasonable, facilities were clean, volunteers were plentiful and helpful, and the music was strong. If attendance was hurt by the tail end of the World Choir Games, the Reds’ big series against St. Louis, and maybe the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, so be it. For a first-time event of its size, Donabedian’s team did a wonderful job.

There were probably some people who spent 33 hours on the riverfront over the weekend, but fans didn’t have to do that to enjoy great music. 

Ponderosa, a five-man outfit from Atlanta that had some success with 2010’s “Moonlight Revival,” was a revelation. “Revival” mixed the alt-country grit of the Drive-By Truckers with the southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Friday, however,     the band unleashed a sonic attack at the Landor Stage on the Serpentine Wall that mixed the guitars of Kalen Nash and Kris Sampson with John Dance’s stunning keyboard work, Darren Dodd’s relentless drumming and the throbbing bass of Jonathan Thomas Hall on songs from their new album, “Pool Party,” out July 31. If you closed your eyes, there were moments that seemed as if Garbage was sharing the stage with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Is that even possible? See for yourself when the band plays an in-store set at Shake It Records in Northside July 30.

In the same vein, Alberta Cross played an early show on the main stage Saturday that featured new tunes from “Songs of Patience” and its 2009 breakthrough “Broken Side of Time.” Guitarist-songwriter Petter Ericson Stakee and bassist Terry Wolfers have mastered the art of mixing sweet melodies with rockin’ beats that make for such crowd pleasers as “Magnolia” and “Wasteland” from the new album and “The Thief and the Heartbreaker,” “Leave Us and Forgive Us,” and “ATX” from the debut. If they had played later in the day, people would have filled the field in front of the stage.

LP is a ukulele-strumming sprite from Los Angeles who describes herself as looking like a “cross between a young Bob Dylan and Marc Bolan,” and has more  stage presence than the two combined. She and her tight, swinging band moved up their Friday set to catch a plane for England where she will surely captivate the Brits. Her only record is a six-song EP, “Live at EastWest Studios,” but by the time she finishes her first full-length record, plenty of people will know her name, er letters.

Nashville singer-songwriter Tristen played to the small crowd of folks who skipped out of work early Friday afternoon, charming them with her catchy pop songs from last year’s “Charlatans at the Gate” and a new album due this fall. She seems to have found a core group in the Tristate through her appearances at MidPoint and shows at the MOTR Pub.

Music played constantly from three stages while the other three were being set up, so a walk from the main Globili Stage at the west end of the riverfront to the AliveOne Stage one the east end gave one a taste of the menu and the opportunity to stop and listen if intrigued. 

While the return of Tall Stacks is apparently on the city’s wish list for next year, it  wouldn’t necessarily compete with a second Bunbury. This was a rock festival; twangy guitars were scarce if not nonexistent. Hopefully both events will happen, evidence that Cincinnati can indeed be a musical destination.

Look who’s coming to play

Over the Rhine, July 22, Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. The city’s favorite rock band will play a free show at the newly renovated space in its namesake neighborhood. 

Blues Brews and BBQ with Delbert McClinton, Little Feat, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Villains, Sept. 8, PNC Pavilion. McClinton headlines a smaller version of his Sandy Beaches Cruise package to Riverbend. Little Feat is getting great reviews for “Rooster Rag,” its first album of new music in nine years.

Nick Lowe, Sept. 25, 20th Century. The legendary English singer-songwriter-producer will make a rare visit in a solo acoustic show.

Justin Townes Earle, Nov. 1, Taft Theatre. The winner of the 2011 Americana Music Awards song of the year for “Harlem River Blues” is touring behind “Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now,” which could put him back in the mix this year.

Sharon Van Etten, Nov. 8, Taft Theatre Ballroom. The Brooklyn singer-songwriter returns to town still riding critical huzzahs for “Tramp,” her album produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner.

Iris DeMent, Nov. 15, 20th Century. The semi-reclusive singer makes a rare appearance as part of a 20-date tour. DeMent, who is married to Greg Brown, has released only four albums over the past 20 years but has a loyal cadre of fans.

Tim O’Brien, Nov. 29, 20th Century. The bluegrass virtuoso is working triple time this year, touring with Hot Rize, the O’Brien family band Party of 7 with his sister Mollie, and as a solo act, which is how he will play here.

Album of the week

“Sooner or Later,” the V-Roys. Scott Miller, who is opening for Hayes Carll at the Redmoor Wednesday night, has built a loyal local following for his work with the Commonwealth and his solo shows.

Many of those fans first noticed Miller when the V-Roys visited the Southgate House many times during their 1994-99 lifespan. The venue was so crucial to that band’s success that when the foursome of Miller, guitarist Mic Harrison, bass player Paxton Sellers and drummer Jeff Bills reunited last year for one show in their home base of Knoxville, Tenn., the group agreed to play one more show in Newport as well.

“Sooner or Later” is an 18-song compilation of greatest hits, from the rockin’ title track to the singalong anthem “Cold Beer Hello,” plus many others that Miller still plays in his shows. If you know Miller only from his solo work, this is a great peek into his roots.

Email Bill Thompson