To be 42 and still discovering what Cincinnati has to offer is a gift. ‘Tis the season, I suppose.
While I’ve heard the name Motherfolk, I’d not made the leap into actually investigating the band and what they were up to. Which, to be honest, is a shame. That they recently toured with Kevin Devine should have been a good indication that I’d been missing out. I’m glad I had an opportunity to rectify the situation last night. A genuinely great live band, some really interesting intersections of a lot of what I enjoy about indie rock over the past couple decades - it’s easy to see why the band has been able to do what they’ve done since their inception.
The evening’s festivities started out with local act Carriers, performing solo. Calm, assured, conversational and entertaining, his performance was a fun mix of folksy and earnest, with quiet sentimentality and a good sense of humor. Erring more on the side of indie than folk, though, Curt Kiser channels David Bazan through a less dour lens and more complex guitar work. It was a subtle but effective way to kick things off. While I missed the opportunity to see All Get Out, who couldn’t make it - Carriers was asked to play the day before the show - it still felt of a piece to have Carriers on the bill.
Direct support fell to St. Louis’ Foxing, an indie/emo outfit that I was genuinely surprised to see announced as performing. In all the years they’ve been touring I’d never had the opportunity to see them live and was really excited to see if they would be as good as anticipated. I am thrilled to report that yes, indeed, they very much were. Foxing has a hyper particular blend of moody, sometimes chaotic indie, emo, and more aggressive forms of both, with tracks veering from quiet and orchestral to brash and operatic. Paired with Motherfolk’s energetic, slightly more straightforward take on the indie/emo dichotomy and Carriers’ contemplative and pared-down solo performance, it ended up being a lovely segue between the two. If you’ve not heard - or seen - Foxing and are fans of bands like Manchester Orchestra and Pianos Become The Teeth, I do believe they would be in your wheelhouse. It was a great performance, and frankly, anytime a trumpet is involved in a setting outside of a ska or jazz show, I’m into it, so I’m happy I was able to check out the show and finally catch them live.
Motherfolk closed out the night - it was, after all, A Very Motherfolk Christmas - and were something of a revelation. Sonically, they have all the hallmarks of the kind of indie rock that’s audio catnip for me. Emotive and heartfelt vocals, fun guitar work that covers a broad cross-section of influences but still feels original, a super fun stage presence that acknowledges a set that’s solemn but upbeat - really, what’s not to like?
As I like to do when I’m attending a show of a band that I’m not familiar with, I chose not to listen to any of their music before walking through the doors at Bogart’s. I love to be surprised, to engage with a band on their terms, in an environment where their music is the sole focus and you have no choice but to pay attention. Making their way through the night’s set, I was struck by how much they reminded me of bands like All Get Out and Manchester Orchestra - and, to my chagrin, not realizing they were from Cincinnati, their sound really had me convinced they were part of that rather particular Georgia scene that spawned bands like those mentioned above. On record, they have a bit of that We Like to Party vibe a la Walk The Moon, but there was one aural touchpoint that had me a bit tripped up. Little-known band Nashville indie rock group Paper Rival was top of mind, and after doing a bit of digging, I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn’t have been) to find at least one coincidental connection between the bands in the title of a Motherfolk’s album Family Ghost, with a song titled the same. Paper Rival’s album Dialog also features a song titled “Family Ghost” and it may be nothing, but I found it kind of wild. But I digress.
Motherfolk’s live show is great, with engaging variations of layered vocals, subtle keys, big bass and sometimes bigger drums, it was an entertaining way to spend a Saturday night in Cincy. There are much worse ways to celebrate the season, and enjoying a set of passionate, really, really good music - even missing their other vocalist, what Motherfolk put together in his absence was fantastic - and the night as a whole was a lot of fun. For me, personally, it was a great way to start some much needed time off work and an appropriately music-centric way for me to ease into the holidays.
Cheers to Motherfolk for a successful 9th annual A Very Motherfolk Christmas, and Happy Holidays to everyone there (and those of you reading this)!