A Sad Day in Athens, Ohio

photo from The Union's Facebook page
photo from The Union’s Facebook page

Today was a sad day in Athens, Ohio. In the early morning hours of Sunday, November 16th a fire broke out somewhere on West Union Street between Court Street and Congress. Extensive fire, smoke, and water has damaged buildings including The Union Bar and Grill, Jackie O’s Public House, Jack Neal Florists, Kismet, Campus Sundry, and Smoke Zone Smoke Shop. The Union and Jackie O’s both received considerable damage, as of now it appears that Jackie O’s kitchen and Public House will be closed indefinitely though the hope is the Brewery side will open soon. The Union received significant damage and more details will be known in the coming weeks. Aquabear Legion stands in full support of all of the business owners and people who lost their homes, a GoFundMe donation site is already up to help Union Street employees during this difficult time and more benefits and work is already in planning. You can read about all of the events here over at WOUB Public Media.

Simply put, the Aquabear Legion would not exist without the Union. It is an essential part of the Athens music community. It has hosted countless Aquabear shows and 6 of our County Fairs, not to mention served as the place for all underground rock and roll existing in our town and all that passed through.
When I came to Athens in 2001 as a Freshman at Ohio University I felt as I imagine a lot of kids feel: excited and confused to be out on my own and in general a little out of place. That feeling was short lived because I set foot in the Union after only being in town for a couple weeks. Instantly I felt at home. In the 13 years since then I have since graduated and made Athens my home that place has become a central location for some of the most important events in my life and led to countless friendships, creative collaborations, amazing shows, and even eventually to my own wedding. The Union is an institution. Having a space like that is essential to a vibrant community, for over 90 years people who were looking for all of the other folks who didn’t fit in found them by looking there.
The Union has been a central location to my life for the last 13 years and I cannot imagine where I would be without it. In terms of firsts alone: I had my first beer (at a bar) there and played music in front of people for the first time, and it was the first place I went to after graduating college and marrying my wife Sherri who would be found the night of our wedding in her wedding dress downstairs surrounded by all our friends. The list of great bands I saw there is endless, some from far away towns and cities and some from right down the street. I had the privilege to play shows there in every band and project I have been in and believe that I still will play on a stage at that building again.  I feel honored to be a part of that family and the Athens music community, and I believe that with the support of that community we will be able to rebuild the home base for Athens rock and roll and make sure that institution is there for generations to come.
My thoughts are with all of those affected at this time, especially those whose homes and businesses were destroyed and all of the wonderful people who will be dealing with the loss of work as a result of the damage. The damage to all of the businesses and housing is unbelievable, and the loss of The Union and Jackie O’s Public House in the immediate future will be huge for the Athens music community and the Athens community members who work in those places.

We March and More Added to Aquabear County Fair: September 5-7

Athens' own We March join the Aquabear County Fair lineup and will close out The Union on Saturday, September 7
Athens’ own We March join the Aquabear County Fair lineup and will close out The Union on Saturday, September 7

The 7th annual Aquabear County Fair will take place in beautiful Athens, Ohio on the weekend of September 5-7, 2013! And the Aquabear has another round of bands to announce for this ALL FREE weekend of Ohio music featuring (after about a year off) the Athens legendary punk rockers We March who will close out The Union on Saturday night after Wussy’s set. Joining We March in this round of announcements as well are Hyrrokkin (yellow springs), County Pharaohs (athens), Hex Net (athens), and Princess (athens). The new announcements join a lineup that features Wussy (cincinnati), The D-Rays (athens), Weird Science (athens), Supernobody (athens), Unmonumental (athens), and Weedghost (athens/fairborn). More bands are still to be announced and the entire weekend is FREE. We gladly take donations to help pay the bands, drop us a line at contact@aquabearlegion.com if you’d like to help.

7th Annual Aquabear County Fair
Athens, Ohio –  ALL FREE

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
The Union, 10pm
with: Weird Science, Princess, and more

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Casa Cantina, 10pm
with: Hyrokkin, The D-Rays, Supernobdy, and more

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
The Union, 9pm
with: Wussy, We March, County Pharaohs, Hex Net, Unmonumental, Weedghost

RECORD REVIEW: Wheels on Fire – Cherry Bomb EP

This album seems like a demonstration of how deeply Wheels On Fire can worm four
songs of their greaser surf-rock into your skull. It’s a cleaner break from the straighter
rock sound of Get Famous!, and more in line with beach riffs of Liar Liar. (So much so
that there’s a different version of a song off Liar Liar.) Cherry Bomb’s lead off, “Black
Wave,” starts the dig in your head with a dark beach-party sound, its catchiness only
covered up by the second track (“Broken Up”) and its insistence on including a kind
of ‘keyboard cat’ riff. The title track demonstrates Wheels on Fire’s experimentation with doo-wop harmonies, and the final song of the set is a stripped-down revision of Liar Liar’s “Go Give Your Love Away”. These are all good songs, and the descriptions, admittedly, are simple bastardizations of how you’ll experience them, or what they actually are.
Continue reading “RECORD REVIEW: Wheels on Fire – Cherry Bomb EP”

RECORD REVIEW: Orchestraville – Poison Berries

Orchestraville were one of the premiere bands as I came of age in the dingy clubs of the early ’90s Athens music scene.  They stood out from crowd by infusing their music with quirky angularity and a much poppier feel than their contemporaries.  I had, at a young age, developed an affinity for XTC, and damned if these guys didn’t nail the sound.  It also didn’t hurt that Dave Pascoe was a complete badass on what was, up to that point, the only fretless bass I had ever seen.  I was hooked.  Two albums, a 7-inch and a few comp tracks later, however, that was that. The band fell into that hazy, excess-soaked gray matter not often called upon, dubbed “the ’90s.”

It was quite a shock this past fall, then, to hear tell of a new record.  I usually greet these types of reunions with a fair amount of trepidation.  Putting an album out after so many years usually goes the way of having a release show in the lobby of a Holiday Inn or, at best, being a pale imitation of the reasons you loved the band in the first place.  Orchestraville did neither of these things.  Instead, they decided to put out a 12 track collection of amazing pop songs. Pop in the long, almost-forgotten sense of a band playing intelligent, well written songs with great production that unfold over repeated listening.  Pop in the sense of attention to detail.  Pop with the sense of, well, not sucking.

Gone are the acute angularities and innate quirkiness of their earlier releases/incarnations.  Instead, Chris Forbes, Keith Hanlon, Dave Pascoe and new-to-me Parker Paul have crafted  a stellar set of thoughtful rock songs that, considering the influences,  sound like Orchestraville.  Sure, there are some distinctly British-feeling moments to some of these songs (particularly “Only A Song” and “You Wanna Be Like That”), but these are minor quibbles that tell me you’d rather reference things than listen to music.  There is an amazingly attentive eye on all of the arrangements, with layer upon layer of subtle instrumentation always benefiting the song.  “Phil Och’s Flag,” “The Bird Without Wings,” “Poison Berries,” and my personal favorite “I Could Stay Here All Night Long” nail the art of pop rock, marrying catchy rhythms and smart lyrics to toe-tapping perfection. I won’t lie—not all of these songs are winners for me.  Seriously, though, if the only thing wrong with a record is that I want to skip “I Take It Back” every once in a while…

Poison Berries is a fantastic collection of songs, by people that still give a shit about writing real songs.  I highly suggest you go to orchestraville.net and start figuring out how you’re going to get a copy.  Oh, if you were wondering—yes, Pascoe is still a badass.

Buffalo Killers + Chickenpussy + Hexnet + D-Rays at the Union 2/19

Perhaps you’ve heard, but Aquabear Legion and Blackout Booking have once again teamed up to present a jam-packed night of rock and roll at the Union this Saturday, February 19.

Headlining the evening will be Cincinnati-based psychedelic blues-rockers Buffalo Killers, who last appeared in Athens this past October. Over the past year, the trio has been hard at work on their next record, the follow-up to their Dan Auerbach-produced 2008 release Let It Ride. The latest finds the group self-producing and expanding their already rich sound—Kelley Deal of the Breeders even provides guest vocals on a track. The record should find its way out this year, but in the meantime the band has contributed a cover of “Scalding Creek” to a Guided By Voices tribute album that will be released on April 16th via No More Fake Labels.

Rounding out the night’s bill are Athens regulars Chickenpussy and Hexnet as well as newcomers D-Rays—a new project from Erick Coleman, formerly of the Speedknobs.

Doors open at 9 PM, so come celebrate the (temporary?) return of warm weather here in Athens with some blazing-hot rock and roll this Saturday at the Union!

RECORD REVIEW: Whale Zombie – Whale Zombie LP

The guys in Whale Zombie know what they’re doing. They’ve crafted a sound and persona that borrows from numerous characteristics of pop rock history while somehow maintaining an identity that’s all their own. Playing with the vigor of a bunch of teenagers who just bought their first battered secondhand instruments and the finesse of seasoned veterans, Whale Zombie have constructed a solid offering with the debut of their first full-length album. Musical genres are thrown in a blender throughout, but this is accomplished in a way that never jars the listener or upsets its own flow. This is, in part, because the fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetic is one of a few rare elements that remains constant. Add to that quality song writing and skillful playing, and there’s little fault to be found within these 35 minutes of throwback surfy psychedelia.

Any number of Whale Zombie’s songs could be equally at home in a Nuggets compilation or on the iPod of a hungover OU underclassman. It’s apparent that they like to screw around with pedals, which will always earn high praise from me. Still, that never really prevents them from writing some truly catchy, rocking tunes. Some of my favorite tracks are the raucous “Ridin’ the Wave” with it’s singalong melodies, “Battle for Middle Earth”, an instrumental ditty that shakes the walls with its thundering chorus and sprint to a false finish and the wonderfully sludgy “Demons”.

Ultimately, any album review can be boiled down to one simple question: is it worth a listen? In this case, the answer is a clear and resounding “yes.” Check out their Myspace, Facebook and Bandcamp presences for information and downloads. Their label, Dark Circle Records, also has a site, but it seems to be in its infancy as this is being written. Whale Zombie might not be everyone’s cup of tea, nevertheless there is plenty in there for fans of surf rock, psychedelic freak outs, retro pop, heavy instrumentals and Final Fantasy IX to enjoy. Just watch out for the Ultra Sound Wave! That shit can fuck up your entire party.

Buy: Whale Zombie LP

Aquabear Reader #3! Submissions and Advertisers Needed!

The Athens-based Ohio music, art, and film collective Aquabear Legion is starting to get ready for the third issue of our FREE magazine The Aquabear Reader and we need your help!

The Aquabear Reader needs writers, photographers and anyone who wants to help to contact us. This is a 2,000 hard copy circulation magazine made right here in Athens and available all around town, in addition we also make the Reader available on our website as a .pdf.

We are open to ideas for stories and features and also have a lot of our own if you need an idea.

The Aquabear Reader remains a FREE publication because of support from our advertisers, if you are a local business or organization that would like to reach an audience from Athens and around Ohio while supporting a good cause and organization send us an e-mail to contact@aquabearlegion.com and we will send you information on our very reasonable advertising rates (starting at $50!).

CONTACT US ASAP if you are interested we want issue 3 out before summer!

You can also go take a look at the first two issues online here:
http://www.aquabearlegion.com/aquabear-reader/

E-mail us for more information at contact@aquabearlegion.com or visit our website at www.aquabearlegion.com

Support your local Aquabear!

Free Aquabear Show on Friday, 10/17 and Aquabear Night @ The Union on 10/24

The Aquabear Legion is honored to have our monthly concert at ARTS/West be part of this year’s ART/oberfest. ART/oberfest is a community arts celebration here in Athens complete with all kinds of visual art, music, workshops, vendors, and more.

We are helping kick the weekend off:

Aquabear Live @ ART/oberfest
Friday, October 17th
ARTS/West
132 W. State, Athens
7pm-10pm
FREE!

with:
Russenorsk
Bram Riddlebarger and His Lonesome Band
Jesse Remnant

FREE!

Find out more about ART/oberfest at their blog
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Friday, October 24th
Aquabear Night @ The Union
with:
We March
1point3
and more.
10pm
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Aquabear Live @ ARTS/West on July 12!

Aquabear’s monthly concert series Live @ ARTS/West continues with a great show on Saturday, July 12th at 8pm with Athens’ own Sad Bastards and Godversussatan (members of Men of Gentle Birth!). The show will of course take place at ARTS/West (132 West State Street in Athens), music will start at 8pm and its only 3 bucks! Come out and support local music and our new monthly series!
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And don’t forget…

Saturday, July 26th
Aquabear Legion Compilation Release
@ Casa Cantina 10pm
with
Machine Go Boom, Casual Future, 1point3, and Weedghost

Saturday, August 16th 8pm
Aquabear Live @ ARTS/West
with Kaslo and more!