It got real weird in Northside last night - a chilly night outside, proggy, muggy, thrashy inside. While it made for delightful ambience, Northside Tavern’s lighting was, shall we say, challenging when it came to capturing photos without a flash. So these quick snaps with my phone will hopefully suffice.
The photos won’t do the show justice, of course - Bug Juice’s frantic energy, The Metric Ton’s 5 minute “our 12 string guitar ain’t working, hold on” jam session, Lung’s looped crowd participation that had them laughing mid-song, Touchdown Jesus’ vibey off-center riffing. The crowd was intensely invested in each and every set. The bands were all there to have a good time and support each other. It was a surprisingly illuminating night for me, personally, since I was able to catch a few acts I likely wouldn’t have otherwise, and get a view of who their fans are and what they’re excited about and wanting to experience right now.
Bug Juice was the evening’s amuse-bouche, a 20-minute ripper of a set that, on the surface, sounded like fairly straightforward thrashy punk rock, but increasingly felt like it was tiptoeing into scramz territory - not too far off from a hybrid of bands like i hate sex and Escuela Grind. It was pretty gnarly, and despite their more or less stationary stage presence, it was furiously emotive, their front person stalking the stage extension, encouraging the crowd to stand up, move, get involved even as they jumped from the stage and participated in a modest pit themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed their set and look forward to seeing what they get up to next.
I genuinely appreciate when bands surprise me by not sounding at all like what I anticipate. Books, covers, judges, etc. The Metric Ton had the look of a 70’s rock band, mixed with 80’s hair metal, and an extra drummer? In no way was I expecting a post-punk barn burner, with just enough proggy elements to help tie their set to the headliners. The double drum set was intriguing, and because of where I was stationed next to the stage, I missed that they also had a 12-string guitar on hand. So for a 5 member outfit, they were packing a lot of sound into a really small space. When they were synchronized, the drums were massive but not overwhelming, but it was when they played off each other rather than with each other that they really made sense. Regardless, from my vantage, they were hypnotizing to watch. Also, might I add, they collectively had the best hair of the night.
Lung has become a Cincinnati institution at this point, and there’s a deliciousness to their stature in the city that I find simply awesome. On paper, a cellist and a drummer playing dark, operatic indie rock with industrial, prog rock, and other disparate sonic elements thrown into the mix seems outlandish. They might not be for everybody, but if you’ve not given them a chance, you’ll find they’re much more accessible than you might think.
Following intense touring around their most recent release - a split LP with Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends called Adult Prom featuring some of their best work to date - Lung used last night’s show as their last in the city for a few weeks while they hit the road with Dayton’s very own, and legendary, Brainiac. The band charged through tracks from Adult Prom and the rest of their impressive catalog, pausing only briefly throughout for sips of water and some humorous banter with the crowd that ended up bringing an unexpected levity to the night. I was stoked to hear tracks from the new record - one of my favorites of 2023 and an album that’s still in regular rotation for me - and the crowd was equally into what Lung offered. It was a surprisingly diverse crowd, and considering the genre-hopping each band was doing set to set, it was also just plain cool to see folks of noticeably different generations digging things the way they were. It felt like an extremely fond farewell to the band as they embark on what I imagine will be an exceptional time with Brainiac, and I’m genuinely excited to see them next month at the SofaBurn Records show happening at Woodward.
Closing out an already great night of music, prog/experimental/generally weird band Touchdown Jesus was another band that very much caught me off guard. As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, if I’ve not listened to a band before and I’m going to see them live, I let their live show be my introduction. I don’t know how their sound translates when it’s recorded - I’m going to find out the answer to that question this weekend - but I can say that live, it’s as intriguing as it is jarring. Amidst the repetition, there’s an easy musicality to all of it that I found instantly listenable. Then, as they veered off into “experimental” territory, it wasn’t hard to follow along and appreciate what they’re attempting both onstage and off.
I love, love, love how weird the layers of music happening in Cincinnati are right now, and as I’m peeling them back and exploring that weirdness in all its glory - something I’m making a concerted effort to do this year both for myself and for CincyMusic - I’m filled with immense pride at what the Queen City is doing for and with indie music. It’s a good time to be a fan of Cincinnati’s music scene right now, the music is literally everywhere. At some point in the future we’re going to look back at what’s happening right now as a true renaissance, and it will be bands like Bug Juice, The Metric Ton, Lung, and Touchdown Jesus that we’ll point to as particularly bright beacons in an increasingly blinding field of bands and musicians.