Though Cleveland and Columbus may have lengthier histories when it comes to their rock scenes, for a period in the mid-90s, Dayton was every bit the hotspot as those bigger metropolises. With bands like Guided By Voices, The Breeders, Brainiac, and more calling the city home, the burg was perhaps producing more great bands per capita than anywhere else in the state. It was this self-made scene that inspired Kevin Elliott and Andy Hampel to first start making music as teenagers in Dayton’s suburbs. The first result of that initial inspiration was 84 Nash, a band that eventually moved to Columbus and released three superb records—including one on GBV frontman Robert Pollard’s short-lived Rockathon label—before calling it a day.
No doubt some of this influence also rubbed off on Kevin’s younger brother Adam, who until a few years ago drummed and sang with Times New Viking. The two siblings and guitarist Hampel have teamed up in Connections, a band rounded out by guitarist Dave Capaldi, formerly of El Jesus de Magico, and bass player Philip Kim. The five-piece has released three albums in quick succession, not to mention a slew of 7-inches. That the band has been able to convey a spastic zeal and deliver consistently great pop hooks over so much material says something about their upbringing. They’ll be in town tonight playing with their Anyway Records labelmate St. Lenox, as well as Brooklyn band EZTV, at Cake Shop. Check out their video for “Scanners” below. Continue Reading →
Robert Pollard in his finest t-shirt
If ever there was a band emblematic of the Ohio aesthetic, it would be Guided By Voices. The music made by Robert Pollard and his band of merry men has been equal parts beer-fueled bombast and lo-fi intimacy and has revealed the ingenuity that surfaces when left to one’s own devices. Since reuniting the classic line-up—Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, and Kevin Fennell—a few years back, such ingenuity has put the band on a pace of an average of two albums a year. (And this in addition to a couple Pollard solo outings per annum too!) The latest, Cool Planet, was recorded at the Cyberteknics studio in Dayton over the winter, and features Kevin March, who played drums with GBV from 2001 to their supposed disbandment in 2004, stepping in for Fennell, who was dismissed last year after a public kerfuffle involving an eBay auction of his drums. The added fidelity of working in an actual studio is negligible, but this one has more of the aforementioned bombast, as if the band felt the need to indulge in some rock primordialism. “Psychotic Crush” works particularly well, meshing a Ziggy Stardust–ed riff into the kind of truncated song in which this line-up specialized during its heyday.
When the band played Central Park a couple years ago, Pollard and company dared to stick largely to new cuts and still didn’t disappoint. I expect much of the same tonight, when they play the soldout Bowery Ballroom. Joining them in an opening slot will be former GBV guitarist and Cleveland ex-pat Doug Gillard, who as we discussed last month, has a new solo album out. One has to imagine, though, that he will get onstage with Pollard for at least a couple nuggets from his tenure in the band. As such, this is a rare opportunity to hear all eras of GBV represented, and I for one would love to hear “Back to the Lake” alongside songs from the new album.
Not long after I launched OhioNYC, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Joshua M. Bernstein at one of the release parties for his first book, Brewed Awakening. Joshua, a Dayton native and a graduate of Ohio University, moved to New York 13 years ago, and in that time, has quickly become one of the city’s foremost writers on all things beer-related. He’s written for such prestigious periodicals as New York magazine and The New York Times, and he has now published his second book, The Complete Beer Course, in which he “break(s) down the elements that make beer’s flavor spin into distinctively different and delicious directions.” He’ll be celebrating the book’s release with a shindig this evening at 7:30pm at the Brooklyn Brewery. If you can’t bribe your way into tonight’s soldout event with some homebrew, Bernstein will also be hosting another release party at SingleCut Beersmiths in Queens on September 21. You can get the details on all of Joshua’s goings-on at his website.
Kim and Kelley Deal, twin sisters born on this date in 1961 in Dayton, are best known as the nucleus of alt-rock luminaries The Breeders. The pair first started using the moniker while still in high school, when they acquired an eight-track tape machine and began recording folk and pop songs in their bedroom. However, Kim first made her name as bassist with the Pixies after moving to Boston, the hometown of her husband at the time. Returning to using the moniker as a side-project between Pixies albums, she recruited Tanya Donelly of the Throwing Muses, as well as bassist Josephine Wiggs, for The Breeders’ debut album, Pod. Kelley joined her sister in The Breeders after the Pixies broke-up and Donelly left the fold to form Belly in 1993. Also joining the band at that time was Ohio drummer Jim Macpherson. It was this line-up that achieved the greatest success, releasing Last Splash, which eventually went platinum, largely due to the popularity of its lead single, “Cannonball.”
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As witnessed by the recent announcement of a Funk Hall of Fame in Dayton, perhaps more than any other locale, Southwest Ohio has played an important role in the development of R&B’s wilder and woolier offspring. King Records, who released some of James Brown’s first sides, was based in Cincinnati, also the birthplace of the Godfather of Soul’s one-time bassist Bootsy Collins, who also played with Parliament-Funkadelic. The Isley Brothers, whose “That Lady” was a funk precursor, were also from the Queen City. But the Gem City (a.k.a. Dayton) was the real hotspot. The Ohio Players, Lakeside, and Slave all hailed from the small city, as did Zapp (a.k.a. The Zapp Band).
Zapp was formed in the ’70s by brothers Roger and Lester Troutman, along with younger siblings Larry and Terry. Roger was childhood friends with Bootsy Collins, and the two made a pact that whomever became famous first would help the other. Collins kept his promise and brought Zapp to the attention of P-Funk leader George Clinton. Clinton took the band on tour and helped them get signed to Warner Bros. Records, who released their first single “More Bounce to the Ounce,” which went to number two on the Soul Singles chart, as well as their self-titled debut album, which topped the Soul Albums chart in 1980. Zapp never reached the same commercial heights in subsequent years, but experienced a resurgence in the ’90s when hip-hop artists like EPMD began sampling their big hit. Roger was subsequently featured on 2Pac’s “California Love.”
Unfortunately, the Zapp story is tainted with tragedy. On April 25, 1999, Larry, who reportedly had gone several days without sleeping, shot Roger before turning the gun on himself.
Lester and Terry eventually reformed Zapp with original keyboardist Gregory Jackson, releasing Zapp VI: Back By Popular Demand in 2002. Tonight they will be playing a free Celebrate Brooklyn! show originally scheduled for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, but moved because of threatening weather, at the Bell House. Joining them will be Bronx rapper D-Nice.
Even if you haven’t read Simon Reynolds’ excellent Retromania, you’ve probably noticed that we are living in an age when seemingly bands of every era simultaneously exist. Take the Breeders, for instance. Formed by Pixies bassist and Dayton native Kim Deal as a side project with Tanya Donnelly, the Breeders achieved their greatest success once the Pixies were put to bed and the band released its second album, The Last Splash, in 1993. By then, Donnelly had moved on to form Belly, and Deal had recruited her sister Kelley and drummer Jim Macpherson, another Ohioan. Along with British bassist Josephine Wiggs (who had played on the Breeders’ debut, Pod), the group eclipsed Kim’s former band commercially, with The Last Splash going platinum largely on the success of single “Cannonball” on alternative radio. However, by 1995 this version of the band had disintegrated. Though Kim and Kelley still released several albums with new line-ups under the Breeders moniker, they never achieved the same popularity.
As such, the reunion of The Last Splash line-up to tour playing the album in its entirety has sparked the interest of Gen-Xers and others who still remember the band primarily for that record. Tonight, they’ll be playing New York for the second time (they began the tour in March at The Bell House in Brooklyn). The show is at Webster Hall and will also feature Cincinnati up-and-comers Tweens, as well as Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts. Tonight’s gig is sold out, but if you don’t have tickets, you can catch the band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon tomorrow. If you do have tickets, be sure to check out the merch table as the band has a t-shirt of particular interest to Ohioans.
I’ve written before about the Umbrella Men, an “Ohio river folk” band comprised of brothers Danny and David Tuss. The Dayton natives are playing what they say may be one of their last Umbrella Men shows for awhile tonight at Pete’s Candy Store. As the pair also just finished the first full-length album by their project with Jamie Scythes, Cedar Point, I imagine they may play some songs from that record. (You can check out a song from the album, “Right Side of the Road,” below.)
I recently put some questions to the brothers Tuss via email and they were kind enough to respond.
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