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Monday, May 25, 2009

A beginner's guide to local music

If you’ve been down to this year’s Taste of Cincinnati, or plan to do so on this Memorial Day, you’ll notice that alongside the food are five stages of live music. And many of the bands performing hail from right here in Cincinnati.

With events like the Taste, Fountain Square’s Indie Summer, and the Midpoint Music Festival – not to mention the many live shows happening at venues across the city on any given night – it’s clear that Cincinnati has a thriving local music scene.

Similar to the diversity of cuisines you’ll find at the Taste, Cincinnati’s music venues feature a diversity of genres and plenty of unique atmospheres. Around UC, you’ll find Rohs Street Café featuring acoustic acts, while the neighboring Baba Budan’s adds some hip hop and punk shows to the mix. Mad Frog usually features jam bands or metal, and occasionally brings in a touring national act. Heading up to Northside, you’ll find more punk at Blue Rock Tavern, and everything from jazz to indie at the neighborhood hangout Northside Tavern. Across the river, you’ll find both local and national acts at the Mad Hatter in Covington, and the biggest national acts at the Southgate House in Newport. And that’s just a small sampling of our venues.

But what’s most important about Cincinnati’s music scene are the bands themselves. Some are made up of college students or young professionals who play music as a hobby after their 9-5 job, and others feature dedicated musicians who do everything they can to take their band to the next level. Many have even broken through and made a name for themselves nationally. Heartless Bastards have been featured on The Late Show with David Letterman; Bad Veins have played festivals like South by Southwest; Buffalo Killers have toured with The Black Crowes and The Black Keys; and two members of The Greenhornes are also in Jack White’s side project The Raconteurs.

You can always open up the events section of CityBeat or CinWeekly, or visit, to find out about local shows. But if you want to try a more structured approach to discovering local music, there are plenty of resources. For example, if you’re saddened by the loss of Cincinnati’s alternative rock station “The Sound”, now’s the perfect time to check out Cincinnati’s own independent station, which often features local bands in their “Lounge Acts” sessions. And the “Line Level” television series, developed by UC students, features live performances from some of our city’s best bands.

When you support the many arts that Cincinnati has to offer, don’t forget about the original music being created by our talented bands and musicians. Spend an evening checking out Indie Summer on the Square or another local music show.

Peter Adams and the Nocturnal Collective perform on "Line Level"


Quimbob said...

Memorial Day
We got Klezmer, too.

Randy Simes said...

I just went up to Rohs Street Cafe last weekend for some live Indie Rock. It was great and I couldn't believe that I hadn't yet been there before for live music. Great little set up there.

Travis Estell said...

Haha, oops.

Anonymous said...

Too much creepy christian overtones in that place for me. I'd rather go to Mac's and drink beer ($1 pbr!) while I hear music.

Travis Estell said...

Rohs Street Café is pretty unique compared to other "Christian" music venues, because they do not limit their stage to just "Christian music." All kinds of bands play there without censorship. And although there are some Christian books on display, the church's involvement ends at making and selling the coffee, of which all profits go to charities. Doesn't feel awkward or anything to me; definitely worth checking out.

Jason said...

And don't forget about The Tillers who are going on tour with The Legendary Shack Shakers and may soon be appearing in a Tom Brokaw documentary about Route 50!

Joe said...

mac's is a tough place to hear music if you actually care about hearing the music, because there are always tons of people who came for the cheap beer just talking to each other. that's one of the bonuses of places like blue rock, northside tavern, gypsy hut and east end cafe: they have their stages in a *separate room from the bar* so that the bar-goers and the concert-goers don't have to have decibel wars with each other.

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