If ever there was a good time to start thinkin' 'bout my momma, it makes sense that it would happen while I stood at the New Stage Collective watching Girls, Guns and Glory — one of the honest-to-god best Americana bands out there. Their songs are all about heartache and jail, simple pleasures like whiskey — pretty much all the stuff you'd expect from the kind of music you’d never expect from a band with such a name.
I was reflecting on the thoroughly puzzling “super secret” performance by Radio 4 that had just taken place at the Know Theatre, and it brought to mind a saying of my mother's, a mantra that she pulled out for all sorts of disappointing-but-not-fatal situations. "It sure beats a sharp stick in the eye," was a sentiment that she would use to help me rationalize everything from being cut from the cheerleading squad to watching George W. Bush pilfer another four years.
Don't get me wrong: Radio 4, an Indie Dance/Rock outfit from Brooklyn, are excellent players. I'd never heard them before, which on its face might not mean anything, but many in the sizable crowd gathered at Know seemed like advanced music enthusiasts — and they didn't know them either. Despite rampant murmurings like, “Aw, they’re messing with us. Radiohead will be out here any second now,” I still think most people walked away unable to deny that they'd just seen a really great band.
Alas, CityBeat, if nothing else, has taught me that it’s not just a right but an obligation to ask the hard questions. And so many of us left wondering aloud, “Really? That was the big deal?” In retrospect, maybe we should have found it suspicious that the only member of CityBeat’s staff who appeared to be in attendance for the Radio 4 show was Dan McCabe, the person presumably responsible for booking the band. That’s somewhat telling because, though divergent in their personal tastes, the presence of a gang of CityBeaters at a show is usually a really good sign. And didn’t the paper tout it as a must-see performance, by itself worth every penny of attendees’ $29 entrance fee? Again, not knocking the band, but … for real?
(For more MPMF photos and fun, go here.)
I dunno, maybe our alternative newsweekly has spoiled us in recent
years by independently presenting such noteworthy acts as Cat Power,
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Yo La Tengo, and Cursive. Those aren’t my
favorite bands, but they're wider known and would make for a pleasant
surprise. My thing is, you certainly can't please all the people all
the time — nor should you ever try. But when you bill an artist as
“super secret” you're allowing for a decent margin of disappointment,
so if you've got a no-brainer up your sleeve, such an occasion would be
a good time to pull it out. Radiohead might have been a stretch, but
there are plenty of other bands with the potential to garner the
desired "Surprise!" reaction.
Believe me, I’m just fine with not having any signed bands play at MidPoint, but if you’re gonna stir up that kind of hype, you oughtta back it up with something slightly more momentous. And there definitely has been hype surrounding the issue since CityBeat took control of MPMF in January — not that rumors don't swirl every year about who the "big" act and/or the keynote speakers will be.
(Note: There was also a lot of talk about would-be sponsors like Cincinnati Bell reportedly pulling out major bucks the week of the festival. Please let me know if any of my blame can be redirected and I'll be sure to pepper them with phone calls and emails. I’ve missed out on that weekly ritual since I canceled my service two years ago.)
Anyway, CityBeat, we love you, and we can’t thank you enough for giving us another incredible music festival. Even despite the evident trickery, I'll be in line for the secret artist again next year. In my world, referencing music as "secret" is akin to shaking the cat food bag — I'm so there.
Moving on briefly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed another band from the north, the unbelievable God Made Me Funky. In an effort to describe the indescribable, allow me to cap this review with another note about my momma. When I was 6 or 7, she used to tell me that “the high round things” (later termed water towers) house secret parties where everything including the air is blue, and princesses and wild animals trade outfits and dance all night to Jazz piano. I’ve been waiting all my life for an invitation to a party like that. Though it hasn’t happened yet, I can say that perched atop a ledge for the GMMF show, with a spectacular view of happily buzzed people catching the Funk right alongside Bootsy himself, I couldn’t help but think I must be getting closer. I really hope they’ll be invited back next year. Hey — maybe CityBeat could make them the surprise band? And in the meantime, I’ll see if I can scare up some piano-playing leopards.
— Hannah Roberts