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MusicNOW Turns Five, A Retrospective

Filed in Cincinnati and MusicNOW 5 comments

(photo by Keith Klenowski)
2010 marks the 5th year that Bryce Dessner and the MusicNOW crew have set up shop in Cincinnati, bringing incredible musicians to Memorial Hall downtown. And with the announcement today of another great group of musicians set to play this year, I thought it would be fun to look back at previous years.

2006 – The very first MusicNOW was the only one not to take place in Memorial Hall. Year one took place in a small room downstairs at the Cincinnati CAC which only held a couple hundred people. For those of us that made it to the five concert showcase, we were treated to a solo performance from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, Bell Orchestre, The Books, Erik Freidlander, Clogs and a very special performance from Burmese drummer Kyaw Kyaw Naing. There was a brilliant art installation draping the stage done by Karl Jensen. I wrote a piece about my experience from the inaugural year that you can see here.

In preparation for the festival in 2006, Clogs stopped by and did a Lounge Act session.

(photo by Joe Long)
The second year of MusicNOW saw a new venue (Memorial Hall) and a new slate of talented musicians joining the fold for another amazing batch of performances. The new venue was the perfect setting for MusicNOW and it felt like the festival may have found a permanent home. Bryce’s band Clogs returned, as did percussionist David Cossin for their second year while new performers included Amiina, Irena & Vojtech Havel, My Brightest Diamond and the headliner Sufjan Stevens.

Alot more people took notice of the fest in 2007, and among them was famed videographer Vincent Moon, who filmed this memorable session with Stevens on the roof of Memorial Hall.

In addition, I interviewd Bryce that year before the festival, here is our exchange. Also, My Brightest Diamond dropped by the WOXY studios for a Lounge Act during the festival as well.

My review of MusicNOW 2007 can be found here.

(photo by Joe Long)
MusicNOW 2008 might have been the year with the most expectations. The festival had settled in nicely at Memorial Hall and after the previous year and all the goodwill that was aimed at MusicNOW as a whole, the sky was the limit for 2008. And the lineup made expectations rise even more when it was announced. The grizzlybearslate featured an upcoming act from Brooklyn Dirty Projectors along with the return of Wilco’s Glenn Kotche who was back to perform a piece with the world famous Bang On A Can collective. In addition, the headliners for the festival were nothing short of brilliant as Grizzly Bear and Andrew Bird helped make the final night a jam packed affair. Another element of surprise in 2008 was that Sufjan Stevens was in attendance, mostly as a fan, but he did unveil a video project he had been working on as well. A great bryceunannounced surprise.

ENS Contributor Ric Hickey shared thoughts about the first night here, along with some great photos from Keith Klenowski. All the images from 2008 are Keith’s handiwork.

My own thoughts and pictures can be had here, I was lucky enough to be in the front row for Grizzly Bear and Bird.

I also was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Glenn Kotche while he was in town, as he stopped by WOXY for a guest DJ set.

(photo by Meredith Melragon)

By the time the fourth year of MusicNOW rolled around, I think it is safe to say that most of us here in Cincinnati had come to expect excellence from the festival as a whole. 09′ was no exception, although I felt like alot of people missed out last year a little bit. While some indie rockers might not have been terribly enthused by the though of two nights from the Kronos Quartet, I know many many others that were more than thrilled to get the opportunity to hear so much from this world famous group in such an intimate setting. The Books were also back for the first time since the first festival, and in addition to a great set on night #1, the guys pinch hit for Toumani Diabate the second night, who at the last minute could not attend due to a family emergency.

Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire was on hand as was Tyondai Braxton of Battles, and some unanounced performances went down yet again, including this one featuring Bryce and Aaron Dessner, and Parry.

MusicNOW 2009 Impromptu Jam – Bryce & Aaron Dessner, Richard Reed Parry from Jesse King on Vimeo.

Diabate returned that summer to make good on his commitement and played an excellent set at the Cincinnati Zoo. Lots of great photos from his set are right here.

Bryce continued his tradition of stopping by WOXY for a curators chat again in 2009, and we took some video of part of the segment. Have a look and listen right here.

In advance of MusicNOW 2009, I had an opportunity to interview David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet while our contributor Dave chatted with The Books.

And now 2010 is here, and the lineup is thick with music talent yet again. This year, the amazing harpist Joanna Newsom will be headlining a night of the festival and we will also be treated to a performance from Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent. In addition to these two lovely ladies Justin Vernon will be on hand to headline an evening as well. You probably know Justin as the frontman of Bon Iver, and this solo show should be nothing short of special. So get ready for MusicNOW 2010, I know there is nowhere else I would rather be on March 30-April 1.

Posted by Joe Long   @   19 January 2010 5 comments


Jan 19, 2010
12:40 pm
#1 Martin :

music meow is awesome!

Jan 19, 2010
4:21 pm
#2 nate :

man, that solo set from justin just might be the best show i see in town all year long. bon iver was one of the best shows i saw at bonnaroo last year, not to mention it was at 3 in the afternoon. really loving that we have this festival in cincinnati. but i just keep kicking myself for having never gone in the past. andrew bird, grizzly bear, dirty projectors, the brothers from the national, etc. its like cincinnati’s version of dark was the night.

Author Jan 19, 2010
4:28 pm
#3 Administrator :

Nate, you know that the Dessners are also responsible for Dark Was The Night. :)

Jan 19, 2010
4:45 pm
#4 euro60 :

awesome, awesome line-up. I had bought tickets for the BRMC show in Columbus on 3/30, but I’m going to sell those and make it to MusicNOW three nights in a row. I am just giddy to finally see Joanna Newsom. I’ve seen St. Vincent and Bon Iver before, and they are great.

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