By: Derek Jung
While Switchfoot mulls their future (going on indefinite hiatus except for a short tour this summer), lead singer Jon Foreman is out on the road promoting his new documentary 25 In 24, where he played 25 different shows in 24 hours around his hometown of San Diego, CA. The evening began with a viewing of the movie, which was a little over an hour long and did a fairly good job showing just how chaotic and unpredictable the day was. It also focused on the power of community and friendship, which gave it a nice, uplifting tone. For someone like Foreman, that's pretty much expected, and even one of his crew members was unconsciously giving the "hang ten" hand signal on a balmy, thirty degree Ohio afternoon.
After the movie there was a brief intermission while gear was set up for the show, during which fans wrote down there sound requests on paper, napkins, paper plates - whatever they could find that could be written on and tossed around Jon's microphone stand. By the time the show started, his entire area was covered. I was pleasantly surprised that the set started with the opening track from the movie, "Beyond The Sea", which was also its live debut. Foreman was flanked by a cellist and a drummer, and both share a quality of Jon that I most admire. They all exude a constant positive energy that's infectious.
Maybe it's that California surf.
Beyond The Sea (Live Debut)
Meant to Live (Switchfoot cover)
Patron Saint of Rock and Roll
Vice Verses (Switchfoot cover)
Live It Well (Switchfoot cover)
Only Hope (Switchfoot cover)
Before Our Time
Dare You to Move (Switchfoot cover)
Heart of Gold / I Won't Back Down / Knocking on Heaven's Door
All of God's Children
Your Love Is Strong
By: Derek Jung
There's always a tangible anxiety that hangs in the air during meet and greet sessions. Everyone in attendance is a die hard fan who forked over more money than necessary to shake their musical hero's hand and maybe have a brief conversation with them. This was the position I found myself in on this fateful evening. I was introduced to fingerstyle guitar playing many years ago by my father, who had a Michael Hedges album that I fell in love with. It was from this spark that led to other fingerstyle greats, Don Ross, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour and many more. I've had the honor of seeing many of them on their tours through Cincinnati, but never Tommy Emmanuel. So when Joseph was able to snag meet and greet passes through a client, I found myself nervously waiting to shake the hand of one of the most talented guitarists that I've heard. I am very happy to note that not only was Tommy a gracious host to our group, but he also took time to talk to each of us, to the point where he needed to move quickly through the last few people because he was short on time. He joked, told stories, and played/signed everything that was brought before him.
The show itself was just as great as I imagined it would be. Tommy's playing is fantastic, and he inserts his personality and humor into each song. His Beatles medley, which I've listened to so many times before, was powerful live, as was his tribute to military veterans. There are times where fingerstyle guitar playing can get a little gimmicky, and Tommy's set was no different, especially during a percussive solo where he used his guitar basically as bongos. It went on for a bit too long, especially having seen many other artists do similar things before, but I imagine for those in the audience who were unfamiliar, that was a rather unique and interesting moment in the show. The crowd's reaction certainly alluded to that being true. Tommy Emmanuel's new album, Accomplice One, is a collection of duets with a variety of different singer-songwriters. On this tour, Tommy's only accompaniment was from Rodney Crowell and his fiddle player, who also served as the night's opener. You might recognize Crowell as being Rosanne Cash's ex-husband, but he's also a great songwriter himself.
Check out a video of Tommy Emmanuel performing "Saturday Night Shuffle earlier this month at Paste Studios.
By: Derek Jung
In terms of soothing voices, my wife and I both agree that nothing compares to to relaxing sounds of Norah Jones. Touring on her new album, Day Breaks, she made a stop at the beautiful Taft Theater in Cincinnati. The packed house felt more like an intimate coffee shop, dead silent and in awe of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our generation.
Norah was mostly business during the show, only briefly making some awkward banter with the crowd. She commented that it was cold, and corrected herself a song later that it wasn't cold in the theater, but outside. It was warm when they left New York City and none of them had packed jackets.
She began the night with a surprising cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows", which, for those who are familiar with Cohen's original, sounded great featuring Jones and her piano. The rest of the evening was filled with songs spanning her entire discography, but with obvious focus on three albums in particular: her multi-platinum debut Come Away With Me, her sophomore full length Feels Like Home, and the aforementioned Day Breaks. From time to time she would switch instruments, beginning at her piano, then later moving to a stand up keyboard and finally playing acoustic and electric guitar.
Combined with her backing band, songs from the new album, specifically my favorite, "Flipside" really popped in the live environment. Speaking of her backing band, they were also the opening band, Aloysius 3. While they didn't do much for me on their own, they definitely brought Norah's songs to the next level.
If you ever get the opportunity to see her live, it is well worth it. Grab a glass of wine, sit, relax, and enjoy.
Check out her perforamnce of "Flipside" on The Tonight Show below.
By: Derek Jung
Acclaimed progressive folk singer-songwriter Ryley Walker returned to Cincinnati for the first time since his much talked about performance at Midpoint Music Festival in 2015 at Woodward Theater. Performing for a crowd of about 35 people, the trio wasted no time slipping into some long, heavy jams. Those jams would be the focus of the set, and the ebb and flow of each song relied heavily on the mood set by the intro jam. In that way, the night was spent covering the highlights from their latest release, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. I was very impressed to hear how their songs have evolved in a live setting to fill every nook and cranny of the audible spectrum. Songs like "The Halfwit In Me" were transformed by the jam into a wall of sound using guitar triplets from Walker and the second guitarist. The jazz-styled drumming led the way and I found myself mesmerized by his fluidity of playing. The chorus of "Roundabout" popped much more so than on the album version, and it highlighted the quiet/loud dynamics of the song structure. I was happy to hear that Ryley's dry humor translates well from his lyrics to his live personality as well. The band cracked a few jokes in between songs, and Ryley boasted his love for the giant Bearcat Pizzas from Adriatico's.
I was a little disappointed that their set was only around 45 minutes long, but with a smaller crowd on a Monday night, I don't blame them for keeping it short and sweet. Hopefully we will hear some new material from Ryley this year.
Check out a live performance of "The Halfwit In Me" from the World Cafe below.
By: Derek Jung
I've always had a soft spot for mellow singer-songwriters. Something about going to a show and relaxing in a coffeehouse-like atmosphere is refreshing - even without the caffeine boost. I've had my ear to William Fitzsimmons for the last few years. I missed the chance to see him the last time he was in town at Thompson House a few years ago, so I was happy he was coming to a familiar venue on this tour.
Fitzsimmons' style is similar to how Iron & Wine sounded when he first started releasing albums. Most of the songs are slow, acoustic guitar picking with soft, almost whispered vocals lending to the melancholy lyrical subject matter. For how sad his songs can be, Fitzsimmons' on stage personality is friendly, gracious, and self-aware of the image that his music has given him. To combat this depressing persona, his set was filled with light-hearted jokes that left the small, but engaged audience smiling. At one point between songs he declared that "[he'd] like to slow things down right now...by falling asleep". He also brought out a custom, handmade double neck guitar which he admitted to realizing that he "looked like an asshole" whenever he played it, but he was proud of making it and it sounded good. We also got a rousing rendition of "I Want It That Way" by The Backstreet Boys, which was an unexpected treat.
Even with tables and chairs set up, the room felt pretty empty; I counted around 40 people total that weren't security or theater staff. But Fitzsimmons didn't seem to mind, and put on a wonderfully intimate show filled with old songs to new ones that, according to him, haven't even been recorded yet. One of those new songs, he explained, was about his newly discovered grandmother on his father's side. His father was adopted and only recently was William able to track down his father's birth mom, who turned out to be a drug addict and mother of five who passed away in a motel room. These new-found emotions were channeled into the track and I really enjoyed hearing the back story and how it connected with the lyrics.
About halfway through his set, the show in the main theater next door started, with jam band Aqueous's guitar solos and drums bleeding through the walls and creating a noticeable distraction for what was previously a completely quiet room. It got so bad during one song that Fitzsimmons stopped and said "This is the part of the song with the guitar solo" and just didn't play anything for a few seconds, listening to the sounds coming from next door, before chuckling to himself and continuing. It's understandable that an artist would quickly get annoyed with this, but I was impressed that he brushed it off, jokingly saying that next door was "the exact opposite" of what he was playing. It continued to be a distraction for the crowd for the rest of the show; I was standing towards the back of the room, and people were constantly glancing back, as if they were expecting the jam band to be right there.
For the encore, Fitzsimmons brought opener Jake Phillips out to play some songs with him. They came down on the floor in the middle of all the tables and asked everyone to gather around while they performed 3 or so completely unplugged songs. It was a very cool, albeit hard to hear (over the noise next door) end to an otherwise pleasant experience.
After thanking Jake one more time, Fitzsimmons played the last song by himself in the middle of the floor before thanking us all for coming and walking off. It was an enjoyable performance, marred only by the double booking of the theater. If Fitzsimmons comes to your town, do yourself a favor and have a nice, relaxing evening with a very talented storyteller. You'll be glad you did.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: