5 Years: Music

It may not get quite the press that our food and drink scene does, but the sounds coming from Columbus these days have got the nation tuning in more than ever. The presence of independent radio, a massive university, and a multi-venue promotion company have all served to keep the needle moving, but is the 614 truly a great musical city? We asked three of our most successful musicians – both home and away – to give us their perspective:

Colin Gawel
Guitar/vocals, Watershed
Founder, Pencilstorm.com

The question that never seems to go away: Is there a ‘Columbus Sound?
Obviously this only applies to one type of music but if there is a “Columbus sound,” to me it is a sound that sounds exactly like where we are geographically located. Smushed between the North and South and influenced by both. Poppy but with some twang. A current example would be how both Two Cow Garage and Lydia Loveless have elements of say, The Replacements, yet sound right at home playing a BBQ joint in Austin, TX. To me, that is the “Columbus Sound.”

Your five favorite local records of the last five years?
Bush League All Stars – Cedar Knees, Two Cow Garage – The Death of Self Preservation Society, Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine, Erica Blinn –Lovers in the Dust, Earwig – Gibson Under Mountain.

Can Columbus ever become like Austin, that city so many want to compare us to?
Does it even want to? Comparing Columbus to Austin is like comparing the Browns to the Dallas Cowboys. I think they are both in the same league and while one, the Cowboys, certainly have some inherent advantages over the other and are better positioned to sustain long term success, the Browns eventually will kick their ass and win it all, if only for a season or two.

What are the things Columbus still lacks as a viable music city? What are the things Columbus possesses as a music city that make us unique?
Columbus has everything you could want as a viable music city. It is, without question, one of the 10 best cities in America to be in an original band. Scores of venues and promoters, a 10-hour drive to many major cites, affordable rent, plenty of jobs, support from two radio stations, a major university, many cool festivals, etc. Anybody who thinks Columbus is holding back their band has either A) never gone anywhere else or B) is feeling sorry for themselves. What Columbus lacks is a breakthrough artist. It will happen eventually and when it does there will be pros and cons.

Will we ever truly be home to a giant citywide festival?
We’ve got plenty of festivals as far as I am concerned. I’d like to have a festival where nobody plays, the musicians just hang out and drink beer and listen to music. It could be the Little Rock Festival.

Lydia Loveless
Best New Artist, Spin Magazine

The question that never seems to go away: Is there a ‘Columbus Sound?’
I’m not sure if it’s sound as much as attitude. We’re badasses. We’re strugglers. So it kind of makes its way into everyone’s music and yeah, in a way, creates a sound. We’re intense people, it seems.

Your five favorite local records of the last five years?
Nervosas – S/T, Red Feathers – Black Vinyl, Nick Tolford and Co. – Extraordinary Love, Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons – Hey Kid, Todd May – Rickenbacker Girls.

Can Columbus ever become like Austin, that city so many want to compare us to?
Does it even want to? I think we’re well on our way, but every city is different. I don’t think we should “try to be” Austin or aspire to be anything but ourselves. That’s just how I am about life in general. WE NEED BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION if we’re going to grow into ourselves and I can’t stress that enough.

Everyone always bitches about the bands who are and aren’t selected for ComFest. Here is your chance to put together the perfect 10 bands to play at your own private ComFest. Go:
Hahaha. Well I’d certainly like lesser known bands I hadn’t heard on there…but I guess I’d say Fort Shame, New Bomb Turks, Nervosas, The Dead Girlfriends, The Girls!, Connections, Red Feathers, Damn the Witch Siren, Two Cow Garage, and Nick Tolford. (And wow, there really isn’t a Columbus sound, is there?)

Will we ever truly be home to a giant citywide festival?
I hope so in a way, and in others I don’t. I think those can be really good for cities but can ultimately get too big and be dangerous/weird or just plain irritating. But I’d love to see us recognized as a “real” city and never again read an article about Columbus that begins with “You’d never expect Columbus to….”

Al Shepard
Blueprint, Soul Position

The question that never seems to go away: Is there a ‘Columbus Sound?
At various points there has been a Columbus sound, but it’s only recognized when a group of Columbus artists break nationally. For example, the Columbus hip-hop sound at one point was defined when RJD2, Camu Tao, & Copywrite, myself & Illogic, and DJ Przm & Spitball were all nationally known at the same time. Just as there was a sound when Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit were blowing up nationally. It takes movements of artists to break out together nationally for there to be a recognized sound. The periods when we lack groups of artists breaking nationally are the times when we don’t seem to have a sound. Once they break we will have a sound again.

Your five favorite local records of the last five years?
Jon Rogers and Renee Dion – Moonlight, LxE – The Measure, EYE – Center of the Sun, Sinkane – Mars, Nick Tolford and Co. – Extraordinary Love.

Can Columbus ever become like Austin, that city so many want to compare us to?
Does it even want to? I hope that Columbus never becomes like Austin. The sad fact about Austin is that while they have the largest music festival in SXSW, their local artists struggle to get support the other 51 weeks of the year. Very rarely does a band – and even more rarely does a hip-hop artist – emerge from Austin to become a national act, despite the festival. It begs the question: if Austin’s music scene is so great, where are all the national acts? Many of my artist friends who live in Austin often tell me that SXSW actually makes it more difficult for them to be taken seriously. And I think that’s because most of the people who go to that festival are either from out of town, or live in Austin but have no connection to the local Austin music scene. I wouldn’t want that for Columbus. Being on the outside of something like that has made our local music scene flourish and I honestly wouldn’t trade that for one week of the year where my city is perceived to be the music capital of the nation. I’m good.

Everyone always bitches about the bands who are and aren’t selected for ComFest. Here is your chance to put together the perfect 10 bands to play at your own private ComFest. Go:
Since Comfest really never books hip-hop my line up would be: Soul Position (Blueprint & RJD2), Fly Union, Illogic, Copywrite, P. Blackk, J. Rawls, Envelope, Fabrashay A, Dominique Larue, and Jon Rogers

Will we ever truly be home to a giant citywide festival?
I’m sure we will. And I expect Columbus bands to bitch and complain about it even more than they already do about Comfest every year.

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