Over The Rhine are a Cincinnati music institution. Much like The Afghan Whigs and more recently Heartless Bastards, OTR are a band that wherever they go and whatever they do, will always be closely associated with Cincinnati. Of course, the bands name is part of the reason, but their sound and the memories they have provided for fans tie them to the tri-state.
And it was those ties, in large part, that brought them back to Cincinnati Saturday night. They stepped back in time to do their fans a favor, while their fans paid tribute at the same time. Nearly 15 years ago Over The Rhine were putting together Good Dog, Bad Dog, their fourth studio album not far from the site of the show Saturday night in Walnut Hills. The band returned this weekend to celebrate the album by playing it, in it’s entirety for fans. Of course, playing an album front to back is not something bands are quite accustomed to, and lead singer Karin Bergquist said as much during the performance. “It’s strange to see you singing along to every word of some songs I’ve forgotten” she said. And after all, the “album experience” is an experience reserved for the fan.
I doubt many musicians begin to hum the first few bars of the song they expect to hear next because of repeated listens to an album. That said, OTR was happy to be performing GDBD not only to give fans a real treat, but because said fans were willing to shell out 100$ a ticket to get their prize. And it was far from a cash grab from OTR, whose major label days are far behind them and used the event as an opportunity to fund their next album. So fans were not only laying down the money for the experience, but also with the knowledge they their “hard earned” was going towards yet another experience to be, in the form of a new Over The Rhine album.
The night itself was just about perfect. Around 200 fans, friends and fellow musicians packed into Ric Hordiniski’s Walnut Hills studio, which he has dubbed “The Monastary” for the event, and despite a humidity level inside which was worthy of a mid-August Cincinnati evening, everyone seemed more than pleased to be there. The four main contributors to Good Dog, Bad Dog, Bergquist, Detweiller, Hordinski and percussionist Brian Kelley were re-united for the performance for the first time in years but eased into the set seamlessly with the opener “Latter Days” and just as fluidly into an all-time OTR favorite “All I Need Is Everything”, which saw Kim Taylor, a great musician in her own right and OTR friend provide backing vocals.
As they made their way through the remainder of GDBD I thought of the times I had listened to the album and imagined the same thing was happening throughout the crowd. After all, an album you love sparks the memories of where you where when you heard it, who you listened with and brings to mind a time-stamp in your life as an appreciator of music. This is why Saturday night was for the fans.
The evening wound down with a few special encore songs that blew the minds of the already intoxicated crowd. Over The Rhine played a Stephen Foster tune, “Hard Times”, that they had contributed to Hordinski’s Monastary benefit album and then launched into one of the most impressive covers of “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”, a song originally done by Bruce Cockburn and a time-stamp in itself for me, due to the fact that his album Dancing In the Dragons Jaw was on heavy rotation at my house during my teens thanks to my Dad being a big fan. The closer for the night could have been terribly contrived if not for the amazing vocal presence of Bergquist, as they attempted and pulled off the R.E.M. gem “This One Goes Out To The One I Love”, which turned into a beautiful closer for a beautiful night.
Early on Linford mentioned that the new album was in the mixing stage, I know fans are hoping for something as timeless as Good Dog, Bad Dog but either way friends and fans alike will know they contributed to it through this event.
-photos by our friend Paul (Euro60)