Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Hey, Fred!" 04/27/15-05/03/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

A rare all-music week of "Hey, Fred!" and even more stuff I couldn't fit on. Go out and see some shit this week, Columbus.


April 28: Are You Fucking Kidding Me? A 50th Birthday Celebration of Quinn Fallon. Little Rock Bar, 944 N 4th St. Quinn Fallon's been a mainstay on the Columbus music scene for as long as I've been aware of the music scene. As a singer, songwriter, bandleader, benefit organizer, bartender at some of our key venues including 700 High, Stache's, and Little Brother's (if you don't think the bartender is a cornerstone of any rock and roll scene, you are sadly mistaken), and for the last 15 years bar owner (first at Andyman's Treehouse and now at Little Rock) giving many bands, DJs, and bookers their early shot. He's been directly or indirectly responsible for many of my favorite show-going moments in this town and he finally has a band and songs I'm 100% behind with Los Gravediggers. If you owe Quinn a favor or a thank you, and I know that's no small number of people, you should make it out to this birthday celebration featuring two Los Gravediggers sets. Starts at 7:00pm. Free show.

April 30: Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys. Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St. You could scour the whole wild world and not find 10 people with even half of Robert "Big Sandy" Williams' sweet, soaring tenor voice and boundless charisma. He's one of the finest singers I've ever laid eyes or ears on and one of the great accomplishments of Natalie's - on a very long list - is bringing Big Sandy and his hard-swinging Fly-Rite Boys back to Columbus on a regular basis for the first time since Little Brothers lamentably closed. He writes impeccable, knowing songs in classic forms - most often rockabilly and Western Swing, but also with a tight grasp of doo-wop, R&B, honky tonk country, jazz balladry and even exotica and rocksteady - with the lived-in quality of standards and the clear eyes of today and right now, merging the two like very, very few others ever have. And that's not to slight the perfection his band brings to the bandstand every time at bat, with a solid four-piece lineup these days including long-time guitar ace Ashley Kingman and supple, swinging rhythm section of Kevin Stewart on upright bass and backing vocals and Joe Perez on drums. I can't make this swing through our fair city because of a play I'm reviewing but that opens up a spare seat for you, dear readers. Starts at 9:00pm. $15 Tickets available at Vendini.

May 1: The Ex-Bombers. Cafe Bourbon Street, 2216 Summit St. Columbia, Missouri's Ex-Bombers play what they and their label, Cavetone Records, call dirtbag jazz and beatnik spy punk. They bring a sound that's all low end with Keri Cousins' sparse drumming that recalls Moe Tucker and takes that influence all the way back in time to Olantunji and her crooning, scratchy vocals backed only by Scott Walus' throbbing bass and backing vocals. They use the elements of a rich palette of colors and moods but feel like they edit religiously and throw away what they don't need with the abandon of a real artist - it's an intoxicating mix you can dance, nod off, or make out to and I'd expect to see all three responses when they come to Bobo for a happy hour show. Locals Faster Island open. Starts at 7:00pm. $5 cover.

May 1-2: Columbus Jazz Orchestra featuring Maria Schneider. Southern Theatre, 21 E Main St. The CJO closes its 2014-2015 season with a bang. There's no legend in the world of big band writing and arranging of the last 30 years bigger than Maria Schneider who almost single handledly kept the torch of Carla Bley, Gil Evans, and Bob Brookmeyer alive in the dark days of the '90s with one classic after another like Evanescence, Coming Around, and Days of Wine and Roses - Live at the Jazz Standard which I played constantly in my early 20s. And she's still making classics - as she experiments with longer forms and other genre references, Sky Blue and Winter Morning Walks are as good as anything anyone's done for the form. A bridge between classics of the big band genre and the new jacks like Guillermo Klein, Orrin Evans, and Darcy James Argue. Her writing is rich and unexpected and charming, clean and brutal and wise, that keeps revealing its mysteries and secrets year after year after year. The program here is called "Big Band Evolution" and come with your ears and mind ready to be cleaned the fuck out. Let's also hope this might be a bridge toward CJO dealing with a more modern repertoire at least occasionally, some of the best players in the world for this kind of music digging into things just a little outside of their comfort zone. Show starts at 8:00pm. Tickets and more info available at

May 2: Blueprint. Brothers Drake, 26 E 5th Ave. Blueprint's one of the finest rappers in Columbus or anywhere with a cracking live show and his records just get better, stronger and catchier and more diverse. As a producer, he's got no equal in town and as a songwriter he's brings crystal clear perceptions, sharp and funny and grim and hopeful, to everything he touches. So any time a new record drops is a cause for celebration and this show for his new album King No Crown is no exception. The bill is stacked with support from legend J Rawls, King Vada about whom I hear nothing but good things, The Almighty Owl Greens and DJ Rare Groove. Show starts at 10:00pm. $10 tickets available at

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Hey, Fred!" 04/20/15-04/26/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five


April 20-21: The Aliens by Annie Baker. OSU Lab Series, Drake Performance Space, 1849 Cannon Drive, room 2060. The Ohio State University wraps up a year of fascinating, cutting edge work in their Lab Series with a production - I believe the first in the Columbus area - of one of the finest and most acclaimed plays of the last 10 years. Annie Baker's The Aliens takes place behind a Vermont coffee shop where nervous teenaged employee Evan is taken under the wing of two overeducated and lost 30ish men, Jasper and KJ, and it's told with such empathic observation that by the end it will remind you of Chekov. I saw the Off-Broadway run of this at Rattlestick with Dane DeHaan and Michael Chernus and it's one of my most treasured theatre-going memories, something that slowly grew in impact until I was crying by the end of it. I'm particularly interested in this production because of the director, Karie Miller who was astonishing directing and performing in Available Light's one-night workshop of The Burden of Not Having a Tail. Starts at 7:00pm, tickets available at 6:00pm. Free event.

April 23-26: the theatre is a blank page by Ann Hamilton and SITI Company. Wexner Center, 1871 N High St. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say this is the theatrical event of the waning days of the 2014-2015 season - both the Wex's anniversary season as well as the theatre season. Longstanding Wex collaborators, SITI Company, led by Anne Bogart, who took the top of my head off in college with their Room return for another look at a different Virginia Woolf piece, To the Lighthouse. This work jumps off from that to look at how reading is perceived and what "reading" means. Developed in full collaboration with visual artist Ann Hamilton (who worked with SITI on her Park Avenue Armory installation the event of a thread), the advance word I've gotten - and there hasn't been much, people are keeping the surprise close to their chests - is that this will be unlike anything I've seen and anything I expect. Look for a full review at Columbus Underground but believe I'll be there Thursday night drinking it all in. Sold Out. Check for information on times and tickets that become available.


April 22: Literacy Narratives of Black Columbus Community Sharing Night. Denney Hall, 164 W 17th St. As National Poetry Month rides the crest of its wave in 2015, OSU's English department is presenting something special late enough for those of us who work banker's hours to make it to. From 6:00-7:00pm students will present research presentations and interviews with Columbus's local black poets. At 7:15, the audience will be treated to performances by three of the best working in Columbus right now: William Evans, Barbara Holmes (better known as Barbara Fant), and Scott Woods. You won't see better poetry anywhere in town and there are even fewer opportunities to see that academic context wrapped around poets who are performing here and around the country every single week, refining their craft and doing the work. Begins with refreshments at 5:30pm. Free event.


April 21: Spotlight Series: "Jazz 100s: Billy Strayhorn". Lincoln Theatre, 769 E Long St. One of the finest composers of jazz and popular music of the 20th century is Billy Strayhorn. Just writing "Lush Life" gets you into whatever heaven exists for a songwriter but past that his work both with Duke Ellington and solo - "Bloodcount", "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing", "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the A Train" (with all my trips to New York, I still can't catch the A Train - whether in Harlem, the Upper West Side, Chelsea, Brooklyn or Queens - without starting to hum those sweet notes to myself). Part of Jazz Arts Group's Jazz Academy series, they honor the centennial of Strayhorn's birth with one of Columbus's great pianists, Dave Powers - himself an encyclopedia of recorded music and styles - talking about Strayhorn and playing his great pieces. For more/better informed information, check out Andrew Patton's JazzColumbus column. Starts at 7:00pm. $10 cover.

April 23: Sensations' Fix. The Summit, 2210 N Summit St. Most unexpected show to hit Columbus this season? Maybe. Italian prog progenitors Sensations' Fix, led by Franco Falsini, put out a run of dazzling, delirious albums in the '70s (later sampled by DJ Shadow) and were then mothballed as Falsini dabbled in new wave and electronic trance.  With the RVNG Intl label reissuing their classic albums cut for Polydor, Falsini started a full-on revival in 2012 that finally weaves its way through the heartland to dance, sway and destabilize. Some of Columbus's finest mind-bending bands round out the bill: Psychedelic Horseshit, Golden Death Music, and Jacoti Sommes. Doors at 9pm. $8 cover.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Hey, Fred!" 04/13/15-04/19/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five


April 14: Charlie Hunter Trio. Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza, 5610 N High St. Guitarist Charlie Hunter has practically defined a method of playing the 7 and 8-string guitar in a way that eschews wanky virtuosity and trained seal antics. His playing rotates on sensuality. a bone-deep understanding of R&B but with the wild melodic flights of the greatest jazz players. His writing and his choice of repertoire are as good as his playing. As anyone who saw last year's duo show with the great Scott Amendola can attest, he's a motherfucker dueting with just another voice, but I'm going out on a limb to say this show will be even more special. It reunites him with his long time collaborator drummer/composer Bobby Previte (who started working with Hunter in 2003 and are currently the rhythm section in riotous party band Omaha Diner) and brings in a young voice, trombonist Carly Myers. As good as Hunter's work with just drummers is, there's a special other level he reaches with horns, as in his collaborations with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes or the aforementioned Omaha Diner featuring Steven Bernstein on brass and Skerik on reeds. Myers has been making her name on the jam circuit with Mike Dillon, Yojimbo, and guest spots with Umphrey's McGee, and I can't wait to hear her. Bobby Previte I most recently saw at Bowery Electric in a trio with Mike Gamble on guitar and Austrian bari sax player Fabian Rucker and it damn near singed my eyebrows off. Even as someone who's been a fan of Previte since his records with Wayne Horvitz and John Zorn I got turned onto in high school (not to mention his appearance on Rain Dogs, another strong contender for best record of the 1980's - see below), the power and control rippled through that bar. Previte's writing is also hitting new heights; his suite Terminals that came out last year, featuring So Percussion, Nels Cline, John Medeski, Zeena Parkins, and Greg Osby, I regret only that I didn't hear it soon enough to make my Best Of list - music I'm still unpacking. Starts at 8:00pm. $20 Tickets at Vendini.

April 16: Vijay Iyer Trio. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St. Vijay Iyer might be my favorite jazz pianist working today. He synthesizes everything that moves or excites him in a way that sounds like nobody else. He breathes through his piano with a touch that's lyrical and hard in exactly the right ways and his compositions leave me breathless. This return trip to the Wex finds him bringing his standard jazz piano trio with one of the finest rhythm sections playing today, Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, promoting one of the best jazz piano trio records I've heard in years, Break Stuff. This is a clinic in masters of the form doing what they can do with voices uniquely theirs. Starts at 8:00pm. $22 tickets available at

Visual Art

April 19: Exhibit Opening and Reception: Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women. Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library, 1813 N High. The expansion and renovation of the Billy Ireland has been one of the great success stories of the last few years and this new exhibition has me maybe more excited than I've been for anything there yet, and I've not yet been less than stunned. Curator Sarah Lightman's touring exhibit takes a look at the influence of Jewish women on the cartooning medium, particularly in the creation and flourishing of autobiographical comics through the work of 18 creators from the US and Canada. For the opening, not only is Lightman here to give guided tours, she's assembled some of the best speakers and cartoonists in comics - Sarah Glidden, Miriam Katin, and Trina Robbins (also an acclaimed historian). Seeing Trina Robbins speak at a Festival of Cartoon Art when I was in High School is a seminal moment for me so you can rest assured I won't miss this. Starts at 1:30pm. Free and open to the public.


April 15: Reelin' and Rockin' Presents Revenge of the Mekons. Gateway Film Center, 1550 N High St. There aren't many bands that have been more important to me personally or to whole swaths of the music I love and the music I met many of my friends through than the UK's Mekons. From their first record - 1977's still-funny piss take of The Clash, "Never Been in a Riot" - through helping to solidify the nowhere-near-named-yet movement with 1985's Fear and Whiskey and on to more recent work like 2002's masterpiece Oooh! (Out of Our Heads), they never once faltered in their commitment to pure, uncompromising rock and roll that spoke to their loves and interests and raged against their devils. Rock 'n Roll is damn near the finest record of the 1980s and gave the world one of its handful of contenders for the perfect rock and roll song, "Memphis, Egypt" which shoves and revels in and fucks with rock's erotics and mythopoetics and even the concept of a creation myth entirely - I still get chills when I hear those slashing chords and that line, "Destroy your safe and happy lives / Before it is too late / The battles we fought were long and hard / Just not to be consumed by rock and roll". This is not to even get into the stunning work Jon Langford's done solo and with The Sadies, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Waco Brothers, and Skull Orchid; Sally Timms' fragile, heartbreaking solo work; Tom Greenhaigh's multi-media projects and excavations; Steve Goulding's work with Graham Parker and Elvis Costello; and Susie Honeyman's film scores and work with Rip Rig + Panic; all just to cherry-pick examples. Let whatever attention is left in this deficient age be paid to the Mekons. Happy hour (with drink specials) begins at 7:00pm. Film begins at 8:00pm. 

March 18: The Measure of All Things. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St. Sam Green does terrific documentaries with a live component. Columbus is lucky enough to benefit from his relationship with the Wexner Center that brings his new work to town, most recently his Love Song to R. Buckminster Fuller with Yo La Tengo about three years ago. His new work, The Measure of All Things, is a look at obsessions with records, particularly the Guinness Book of World Records, a way to define and hem in the world. He presents it with live narration and music by The Quavers (Todd Griffin, Catherine McCray, and Brendan Canty). These presentations are always uplifting. Starts at 7:00pm. $12 Tickets available at

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Hey, Fred!" 04/06/15-04/12/15 A Biased and Idiosyncratic Top Five

This is the most popular feature (within the very relative confines of that word as it relates to this). A look at things I want to shine some light on - not everything I'm going to do, and not quite (as the old version was) everything I'd do if money and time were no object.

These are my top 5 suggestions for the week in question - named for my great pal Fred Pfening and named long before it was born, by A., who suggested "Rick's going to have a blog called 'Hey, Fred! Here's what's coming to town...' - whatever media strike my fancy. It could be all theater one week, it could be all films or all readings or all gallery shows, but most weeks will include some if not mostly music - I hope to spark some  conversations and get people excited about what I'm excited for. If you read this, let me know what would make this more useful to you. As well, if you get any value out of this, please send me links/invite me on Facebook/send up a carrier pigeon to let me know about your events.


April 10/April 11: Writer's Block Poetry All Nighter. Kafe Kerouac, 2250 N High St. It's National Poetry Month so I'm going to try hard to find at least one thing a week to point you toward. This event grew out of Scott Woods' legendary 24 hour poetry readings, retired after a staggering 5 year run and turned into a fundraiser for his long-running and influential Writer's Block night and a showcase for the city's robust and diverse poetry scene as a whole. The schedule's still getting filled out but of what's announced there are a handful of sets I recommend without any reservation: both of Woods' own sets 2-2:30am and 10-10:30am, Louise Robertson's closing set 1:30-2:00pm, Ed Plunkett at 8:30pm, Charlene Fix at 8:45pm, and the half hour of erotic poetry at midnight. Starts at 8:00pm April 10 and goes through 2pm April 11. Free show.

Visual Art

April 8: Hassan Hajjaj Talk. Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N High St. Moroccan-born and London-based artist Hajjaj's installation at the Wex currently, My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, is an intoxicating look at artists like Jose James and Marques Tolliver in a rotating video that will suck you in and not let you go for hours. He brings a refreshing, relevant and electrifying voice and aesthetic to the art world that remembers that the word world is equally important in that phrase. With this work closing at the end of the weekend, his talk is a chance to revisit the installation and get to hear about his work from the source. Starts at 4:30pm. Free.


April 6: Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles with the Nth Power. Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave. Cory Henry, keyboardist from Snarky Puppy, has branched out from the gospel tinged organ trio work of his early solo recordings to paint with a more expansive, roiling funk palette that still makes lots of room for his jazz background. The Nth Power features a lineup with heavier roots in the jam band scene including Nikki Glaspie and Nick Cassarino but they have a defter understanding of dynamics and space than much of that scene. This should be a funky good time par excellence for those brave souls out on a Monday (and still standing after the NCAA championship or MLB opening day). Starts at 8:00pm. $15 tickets available at Ticketweb.

April 8: Jim Lauderdale. Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave. One of the finest country songwriters to emerge in the '90s, Lauderdale's sticky melodies and razor-sharp observational lyric writing enlivened records by everyone from Jack Ingram to the Derailers, Patty Loveless to the Dixie Chicks, Blake Shelton to Kelly Willis, before we even get into his massive hits for George Strait. In the dark days when the lines seemed drawn with barbed wire between Nashville country and the movement, Lauderdale not only traversed both sides of the line with more ease than anyone except maybe his friend and collaborator Buddy Miller, but his name in the credits was as close to a sure thing as a fan of pure song was likely to be assured by. He records more under his own name now, ranging from bluegrass to Bakersfield to acoustic singer-songwriter records, which is a very, very good thing - his Whisper on BNA in 1998 is maybe the finest mainstream country record nobody really heard. And he's an astonishing live presence - his Sunday matinee show at Little Brothers about 15 years ago might be the finest single singer-songwriter show I've ever seen. If this isn't magic on that gorgeous-sounding PA at Woodlands, I'll eat my hat. Roots-rocker Erica Blinn opens and word is she's in the early stages of a new record so be hopeful for new songs getting an early test run. Starts at 8:00pm. $20 Tickets available at Ticketweb. 

April 12: Laura Andrea Leguia's Saxofon Criollo. Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza, 5601 N High St. Natalie's has been killing it of late with a couple of my favorite shows so far this year, the debut of James Gaiters' Soul Revival and last Friday's spell-binding Six String Drag performance. Their weekend lineup this week features two shows by Gabriel Alegria's hard driving Afro-Peruvian Sextet but for my money the crown jewel is saxophonist Laura Andrea Leguia's side project playing a brunch show on Sunday - Saxofon Criollo.  Leguia's a deep-thinking composer and reeds player with a rich, spiky tone, and student of coastal Peruvian music and this trio finds her playing with guitarist Yuri Juarez (Susana Baca, Javier Lazo) and percussionist Freddy "Huevito" Lobaton (Guajaja, Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra). If this doesn't cure whatever's wrong with you by Sunday morning, there might not be any hope. Starts at noon. Free.