This is a look at things coming through town (mostly music, but look for more theater and visual art as fall gets underway) I’m excited about this week. Title is inspired by A making a joke to a great friend of ours: “Rick’s going to start a blog letting you know what’s coming to town called ‘Hey, Fred! Guess what?’” Appearance here does not constitute an endorsement by the real Fred. Big inspirations are Steve Smith’s Agenda posts in Night After Night and amigo Andrew Patton’s weekly column for Mark Subel’s JazzColumbus.
This is not intended to be comprehensive. For that, Joel Treadway’s Cringe does a great job and has for 20+ years. If someone knows an equally good guide to theater and visual art, let me know and I’ll link that too.
I don’t intend for this to cover every local band I like every time they play. If I wrote up every time two of my friends played a show together, the things I want to highlight would get lost and it would be more hassle and stress than it’s worth to me. I want to note something that strikes my interest as special: a record release, a rare reunion, something new I worry will get lost in the shuffle, but obviously that’s going to be capricious and not follow a strict guideline.
Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht; Columbus Civic Theater, 3837 Indianola Ave. Mother Courage is still my favorite Brecht. It wasn’t the first play of his I read, but it was the first one that made my nerves feel like they haloed three feet around my body – that same juice I got the first time I heard John Coltrane, heard Amiri Baraka read, or saw an El Greco. Columbus Civic Theater is an institution I wholeheartedly support, but sometimes their repertory work doesn’t line up with my tastes – that’s good, that’s a sign of a healthy theater scene – and the times it has (Albee and Beckett come to mind) the timing didn’t work out. But no way I’m missing this. It's a great cast, including Vicky Welsh-Bragg, in the title role, who’s been in countless productions, including CCT’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; Tahrea Maynard-Johnson, who broke my heart in Shots in the Dark’s Next to Normal; Christina Yoho; and Justin Eberhard. available here.- , , through . $20 tickets
Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon; Gallery Players, Jewish Community Center, 1125 College Ave. This didn’t hit my radar until this week, mea culpa. Entering their 66th season, Gallery Players are a gold standard in this town for plays with traditional story structures mounted and staged impeccably. It’s meat and potatoes theater but bringing in work no one else doing, like last season’s Other Desert Cities. And the 2013 Off Broadway hit, Bad Jews, should be a home run for them: a dark comedy four-hander about the way grief brings out the worst in people. available here., , , through . $20 tickets
Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection; Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St. This is the 800lb gorilla of the local art world for the fall and I’d wager you’ve heard a lot about it already. Picasso is kind of a blind spot of mine – the stuff of his I love I love, but I feel inundated with it and too inured to his innovations as filtered through other people, what A. calls “the Bob Seger effect” (Bob Seger as symbol, in this case, transcends all time periods). But even admitting that preconceived notion, I’m pretty amped to see this astonishing collection – especially the Giacomettis and Dubuffets, which I’ve not seen in person in any great quantity – in the flesh, and this is a great grounding in the Wexner Center’s roots to kick off its 25th season. With timed ticketing throughout the run, you’ll kick yourself if you miss this. Members Preview on http://www.wexarts.org/, with exclusive events for certain donor levels . Open . $8 admission, free for members; reserve tickets here:
Second Skin by Theresa Pfarr; Angela Meleca Gallery, 144 E. State St. For the last year or so, Angela Meleca’s gallery has been bringing in some of the most interesting work of any gallery in town, stepping up to fill the shoes of the much-missed Rebecca Ibel Gallery since Ibel has moved on to running the Pizzuti Collection. Pfarr’s paintings deal with the distortion of the female form through the eye of the media and I can’t wait to see this show. Opening .
September 17, 2014
War on Drugs and Califone; Newport Music Hall, 1722 N. High St. Philadelphia band War on Drugs have exploded with their new record, Lost in the Dream, a layered, textured record that’s reminiscent of everything that’s good about the snarling, loose rock of Neil Young and Crazy Horse or Tom Petty, but beholden only to its own longing, not to any nostalgia. Califone, opening, have been a favorite of mine for a long time; their wilder, more improvisational surreal rock should be a fascinating counterpoint to the headliner and it will be a treat hearing them through that big PA. I never mean to disparage CD1025, they do a great job for a market I’m not exactly part of (and god knows a radio station couldn’t make money catering to me), and I’m overjoyed there’s finally a Low Dough show I’m excited for. Hooray intersectionality! Doors at . $5 tickets sold out.
So Cow; Ace of Cups, 2619 N. High St. A few years ago it seemed like So Cow (the project of Irish singer-songwriter Brian Kelly) played Columbus every few months. It was some great, raw, angular crunchy-pop in the vein of TV Personalities, with a little more coloring from The Kinks splashed over it. It’s been a while since he’s come through town, so this should be special – word is he’s touring with a rhythm section and his new record is one of his best. I’m seeing So Cow at Gonerfest in Memphis the next week so I might miss this, but if you’re not going 9 hours south, don’t make that mistake! The Young, Something Somethings, and Day Creeper round out a stacked night of rock and roll. Doors at , $5 cover.
Lechuguillas; Ace of Cups, 2619 N. High St. This Austin band carries heavy resonance with the ‘80s Touch and Go and AmRep camps like Butthole Surfers or Jesus Lizard, further borne out by their friendship with Chicago free jazzers Tiger Hatchery, but with a blackened, pummeling attack that definitely puts them in the metal camp. This is a must-see for anyone taking the temperature of the angular side of heavy music today. Locals finding new paths in classic noise rock Messrs and Drose open. Doors at , $5 cover.
J Roddy Walston and The Business; Newport Music Hall, 1722 N. High St. This Baltimore band is the most poised to break out of the current wave of historically-informed rockers steadfastly avoiding being lumped in with the purist audience and commensurate glass ceiling of rockabilly (JD McPherson, etc). When I heard their song “Don’t Break the Needle,” it was a breath of Jerry Lee Lewis-by-way-of-Cheap Trick fresh air. And while the records are inconsistent, friends I trust tell me it’s a frenetic, wild live show. Nashville’s Pujol, also tweaking retro rhythms but leaning toward the heavier and sludgier, are the touring opener, and local legend Willie Phoenix opens. Doors at at Ticketmaster.. $15 tickets available
She Keeps Bees and Shilpa Ray; Rumba Café, 2507 Summit St. I’ve been a big fan of Shilpa Ray since she was in Beat the Devil and her records (billed as Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers) just get better and better, so her opening slot on this tour trying out new solo material is hard to pass up. But maybe even more of an eye-opening evolution is She Keeps Bees, who have drawn other strands of blues and R&B into what started as a more typical PJ Harvey/Yeah Yeah Yeahs homage. Frontwoman Jessica Larrabee’s gritty voice is still front and center, and they’re still beholden to their influences, but they find new ways to honor these influences and something fresh in the recombining. Locals The Worn Flints, really coming into their own lately, open. Doors at at Ticketweb.. $10 tickets available
Independents’ Day; Lucas St. between Rich and State. This is my favorite local festival to start up in the last few years, and with businesses booming on Gay Street of late it seemed like it couldn’t last on that prime downtown real estate forever. So this year’s has moved a 15-minute walk across the river to east Franklinton, also at the beginning of its own renaissance with restaurant Strongwater and bar Rehab Tavern and a variety of artists studios. I’m interested in seeing how this year plays out. Highlights of the schedule for me are below. Starts at . Free.
· CD102.5 Stage
o , Damn The Witch Siren – This dance band, formed by Krista Botjer (formerly of the Husker Du/Cramps-y Matte Black Silhouettes) and Nathan Wolf (from Town Monster), is still growing into itself, but they’ve got energy and charisma to spare and they work with a side of smudged neon dance music almost no one else in town does. A band I keep checking out at regular intervals because if the material catches up to the potential, they’ll be hard to beat and impossible to ignore.
o , J Rawls – One of Columbus’s preeminent hip-hop producers, J Rawls is worth watching in any guise he presents, live or on record. A beautiful fall sunset in an old urban neighborhood should be the perfect backdrop for a set of his.
o , Angela Perley – Riding some well-deserved hype on her first full-length, Hey Kid, one of my favorite songwriters and singers in town seems to be really leaning into and enjoying this victory lap. She's wrapping the longing in her voice in spikier, more swinging rock moves than the ethereal folk of the earlier EPs, and sometimes the balance doesn’t work but when it does it’s a sign of glorious things to come.
· GCAC Stage
o , The Hexers – My favorite local band working right now; I’ve certainly talked them up plenty in this space. Not normally accustomed to bringing their brand of ‘60s-infused juke joint stomps to the daylight, but I think they’ll more than rise to the challenge. Dance while the sun still shines.
o , Comrade Question – This band’s blend of Velvet Underground drone and decay with surf music’s trebly punch gets better every time I see them. Great songs, great singing, and waves of sound you can drift on – but they conceal a great treachery if you look down.
o , Herzog – Cleveland’s Herzog blew me away when I saw them open for Diarrhea Planet a few months ago. Everything I liked about the strain of '90s indie rock coming out of Pavement and Superchunk and nothing I didn’t. Great, catchy songs.
o , Mt Carmel – I’ve been a late adopter here; so many of my friends love Mt Carmel and I just didn’t get it for a long time. Now it feels like they’ve leavened their Blue Cheer/Cream bloozy choogling with a wider lens and more easily graspable melodies and I really get it now. Doing bigger and better things, as their new record Get Pure on Alive Naturalsounds starts to build steam, you may not get to see them in town again for a while.
o , Scrawl – It’s always a joy to see Scrawl do one of their infrequent shows, and one of the best rock bands this burg has ever produced still has it in spades.
· Jeni’s Ice Cream Stage
o , Speak Williams – Rapper and spoken word artist Speak Williams is an electrifying presence. A great writer, a great performer, and bringing something different and fresh to this lineup.
o , Mekka Don – One of the more buzzed-about rappers to come out of Columbus in a while, Mekka Don’s tailor-made-for-the-press story about leaving a lucrative law career to chase his artistic dreams seems to be paying off in spades so far with high profile videos and mixtape collaborations.
o , Kyle Sowashes – The low-key locus for much of Columbus’s indie rock scene, torchbearer Kyle Sowash has also blossomed into one of our finest songwriters and as he’s settled into a more stable long-term band, he’s hitting his stride.
o , Wussy – Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker’s dark jangle project from Cincinnati is at a new feverpitch of interest and it’s good to see some of the finest songs anyone in Ohio is writing getting credit and attention outside our insular confines.
· Mikey’s Late Night Slice Stage
o , Bridesmaid – This two bass and drums droney, sexy groove metal project is a band I’m always excited to see. If you only have an hour at the fest, this, The Hexers, and Speak Williams will give you a great idea of what’s interesting in town right this second.
· Dick and Jane/Groove U Stage
o , Cherry Chrome – Xenia Holm, heir to Columbus rock royalty (her parents are David Holm and Melanie Blevins-Holm from Bigfoot and Total Foxx), is still in high school and writing better songs than most of this town. I wish I wrote anything as well as she and her bandmates in Cherry Chrome are writing these perfect pop songs.
· Dance Performance and Buskers
o I might be most interested here but the least equipped to write about either because aside from my pal John Mullen, who’s busking from at Station #3, I don’t know much about anything going on here. It’s a blank slate, but I’m looking forward to being turned on to something I haven’t seen before.
Deaf Wish; Ruby , 1978 Summit St. Much like with So Cow, I’m looking forward to seeing Deaf Wish at Gonerfest next week in Memphis, so I might not make it out to this but I encourage everyone to see their first trip through Ohio. This band from Melbourne synthesizes the last 50 years of noise rock into a grimy stomp that will stick in your head even after your ears stop ringing. Sarah Hardiman’s voice is impossible to ignore and the slashing guitars feel like they’re casting off years of grime. Bloody Show, taking their Stooges worship to new heights and making it feel brand new, open, and the legendary Cheater Slicks, who are still surprising after all these years with maybe my favorite show of their career earlier in the summer, close. Starts at . $5 cover.