Monday morning notebook

Jul 23, 2012

Rick McCarty has seen weeks like this before. He calls it coincidence, but more mystical types might call it this summer’s harmonic convergence.

McCarty, who books the Taft Theatre for Music & Events Management Inc. (MEMI), is responsible for bringing Blitzen Trapper and Sarah Jaffe (Tuesday), Band of Heathens (Thursday) and Old Crow Medicine Show (Friday) to town this week. 

The Taft, however, isn’t the only venue with name bands on the marquee over the next five days. PNC Pavilion hosts Heart (Monday) and the Steve Miller Band (Wednesday). Joshua Radin (Monday) and hometown heroes Walk the Moon (Thursday) will play the 20th Century. Alt country queen Lucinda Williams visits the Madison Theater Wednesday. 

Mike Smith, who books Riverbend and has handled the music for Tall Stacks, put McCarty in charge of talent at the Taft as the downtown theater was being renovated and the basement ballroom reopened. 

“Mike Smith brought me in here to do exactly what I’m doing,” says McCarty, who worked at the Southgate House before the Raleigh family struggle forced it to close at the end of last year..

“I think this venue had been ignored, not just by people here but by bands as well. But people are seeing what it is and how special it is. Now we have air conditioning and people are discovering it is a good place to see a show.”

The ballroom gives McCarty the flexibility to bring in acts that might get lost in the 2,500-seat main theater, but can draw a few hundred fans. That means he can compete with venues such as the 20th Century, the Madison and the Redmoor, just like he did when he was at Southgate.

“I was looking at my calendar from last July the other day,” he says. “We (Southgate) had Heartless Bastards, who sold out, and Trampled by Turtles were coming in the next night. Steve Earle was playing 20th Century and he was sold out, so I was a little nervous, but Trampled by Turtles wound up selling out, too.

“So I don’t buy the argument that you can have too many good shows. You always hear people complain about ‘we can’t get whoever in town,’ but now we’re doing that.”

And as long as the promoters are willing to brings the bands to town, the winners are local fans. This summer has already had a fair share of highlights from Radiohead and the Beach Boys at Riverbend, the inaugural Bunbury Festival, plus a number of top-notch smaller-venue shows including last week’s Hayes Carll-Scott Miller pairing at the Redmoor and June’s Dawes-Sara Watkins show at the Taft Ballroom.

MEMI joins John and Brenda Madden of JBM Promotions, Nederlander and the folks at MOTR Pub in booking national talent into local clubs.

“I don’t know that we’re looking to have something six nights a week like we did at the Southgate House, but I’m not afraid to put a show in here if there’s something coming through town,” McCarty says.

“I’ve always thought that I was more complimentary than competitive with John (Madden). It’s the same with the people at Nederlander. I used to work with most of them, and we talk about shows, but sometimes we’re competing for the same acts.”

McCarty gives Madden props for being ahead of the curve.

“John has a really good ear, and he was bringing in bands years ago that we’re all booking now,” he says. 

Madden isn’t backing down from his bigger rivals. On the contrary, he has created some buzz by booking Shawn Colvin (Aug. 1), Nick Lowe (Sept. 25) and Iris DeMent (Nov. 15) into the 20th Century.

As the record business becomes less lucrative, many acts are spending more time on the road in search of income. And that means more opportunities for fans to see good shows.

Speaking of good shows

Peter Ellerhorst, the guiding light behind the Greater Cincinnati Performing Arts Society, has finalized the seven-show schedule for this season.

A portion of the price of each ticket sold goes to support Catholic education in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Tickets and information:

Did I mention good shows?

Howard Epstein, who books the Miami University Regional Artist Series, has completed the lineup for the 2012-13 series.

Dobro master Jerry Douglas will play Sept. 15 at Hamilton’s Parrish Auditorium, while the Esperanza Spalding, who won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist last year, bring her Radio Music Society to Middletown’s Dave Finkelman Auditorium Oct. 7. 

Meanwhile, Hugh Laurie’s Aug. 25 show in Middletown is sold out.

Find the entire lineup and ticket information at

Talking about music

The WNKU studio is not only the best place to hear music from the artists you like, it’s also the only place where you can listen to them talk when when they come to town.

Music director John Patrick has assembled a great lineup of upcoming guests.

July 26, Band of Heathens (3 p.m. hour), who are playing the Taft Theatre Ballroom that night.

July 27, Jesse Torrisi (2 p.m. hour), who is playing at Arnold’s that night.

July 30, Ponderosa ( 4 p.m. hour), which is doing an in-store appearance at Shake It Records in Northside that night for the new album “Pool Party.” 

Aug. 1, Shawn Colvin (2 p.m. hour), who is playing the 20th Century that night. 

Aug. 22, Tift Merritt, who is opening for Mary Chapin Carpenter at the Taft Theatre that night.  

Aug. 22, Anders Osborne, who is playing the 20th Century that night.

Album preview of the week

“Pool Party,” Ponderosa. The Atlanta quintet made a slew of new fans during its appearance at the Bunbury Festival. There were a handful of hardcore faithful standing in front of the stage at the Serpentine Wall when the set started, with another hundred or so scattered on the steps. Forty-five minutes later, the crowd had more than doubled, and the cheering stopped only when it was obvious there wasn’t time for an encore.

Does a fairly obscure band with one record really have hundreds of fans more than 500 miles from its home? Chances are it will have even more July 31 when “Pool Party” hits stores. 

Unlike its predecessor, “Moonlight Revival,” “Pool Party leans more heavily on the keyboards of John Dance and the dynamic drumming of Darren Dodd rather than the jangling guitars of Kalen Nash and Kris Sampson on tunes such as “For Now I Am Born,” “Black Hill Smoke” and “Navajo.” But it’s the high harmonies of Smith and bassist Jonathan Thomas Hall that give the album its identity, especially on “Never Come Back,” which sounds like it might become the closer when the band hits the road.

The group is making a series of in-store appearances, including a stop at Shake It Records July 30. It will be interesting to see how the boys manage to dial back their sound to fit in such a small space. If you want to see for yourself, arrive early. There will be a lot of new fans fighting for a spot in the shop.

Email Bill Thompson