Over the past couple years, there's been a definite change in the air patterns around Cincinnati. Superficially, I'm talking about the (global warming inspired?) change in the weather patterns that has obliterated the seasons. Summer melts into fall and on into winter, until it's December and it goes from 70 and sunny to gloomy and colder than a well-digger's ass in the span of a week. Really though, I'm talking about the complete and utter explosion in the local music scene. Sure, there's been great bands and a solid atmosphere for awhile now, but lately there's a real, tangible, and electric vibe in the air that's getting exceedingly difficult to ignore. Last Friday, the noise came from Baba Budan's, a tiny coffee shop and bar plopped right in the middle of the University Of Cincinnati's "entertainment" (cough) district. The campus is kind of a cruel joke, awkwardly pasted into a neighborhood full of narrow, 50 year-old-house lined streets that creates a nightmare of flashing headlights and parallel-parking failures. Your humble blogger quietly mumbled "fuck this noise" to himself and parked maybe a mile away and hiked uphill to see the Guitars and the Harlequins. If anything, I reasoned that the trek back to the car would be a lot easier, and would sober me up in the process. Good deal.
The Guitars @ Baba Budan's, 12/4/2009
The Guitars are probably the best '60s-inspired garage rock band you've never heard, and that's not just local scene toadyism or hyperbole, but the real truth! I'm getting kinda old, and I like it when bands bust out covers. When it's Roky Erickson's "I Walked With A Zombie" and Love's "7 And 7 Is," then it's even better. The Guitars aren't just a Nuggets tribute band, though. They've got a set full of historically-minded classic pop songs that stand toe-to-toe with the massive wave of bands populating the blogs and Underground Garage at the moment. They've grown leaps and bounds since the last time I wrote about them months ago. Sporting a SWANK new Fender Rhodes keyboard and killer four-part harmonies, the band ripped through their songs with conviction and, uhhh, smiles! In fact, the Cincinnati scene might be defined by involuntary facial flexing. The band smiles! Oh, and everyone watching them smiles too! In this city, people come out to see shows to hang out, smile, dance, and sing along! Yeah, the last two things I mentioned happened quite a lot on this night. What a crazy concept. No one really cares about looking cool when the beer flows freely and the music makes your feet move and stomp.
The Harlequins @ Baba Budan's, 12/4/2009
The Harlequins just keep getting better and better every time I see them. Sometimes they remind me of a trio of kids let loose in a sandbox full of classic albums, jacked up on caffeine and those ubiquitous Cincinnati smiles. On this night they delivered a set based on classic rock n' roll, but with enough balls to slip in some devilish twists and turns. I kept hearing flashes of mid '90s-style Pavement slacker rock and early '80s post-punk psychedelia, tempered with pure shake 'em down Midwestern groove. I pity the lame-o UC students who stumbled into the joint around 1 AM looking for a quick hook-up who got confronted with the Harlequins in full flight. I bet you were just as confused by the people shaking head and ass as we were by you. It happened more than a few times, and the dedicated folks sweating in their winter clothes couldn't have cared less. Sorry, dudes.
So yeah, to recap, Cincinnati rules OK?! This city is ready to pop, whether you care or not. Talented musicians, photographers, writers, and artists are crawling out of every crevice, and they really don't give a shit whether you pay attention or not. We're all too busy having too much fun to notice. SMILE!