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Old Soul

It’s a Wednesday night outside of Carabar on Parsons Avenue. Inside, several patrons enjoy cheap beers and video bowling. At this early hour the stage sits empty. All the action seems to be taking place in the upstairs apartment. It’s a speakeasy through the windows and a juke joint through the floorboards. The seven members [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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It’s a Wednesday night outside of Carabar on Parsons Avenue. Inside, several patrons enjoy cheap beers and video bowling. At this early hour the stage sits empty. All the action seems to be taking place in the upstairs apartment. It’s a speakeasy through the windows and a juke joint through the floorboards. The seven members of Nick Tolford and Company are “grinding” though their entire catalog above, prepping new bassist Bobby Silver for the next night’s show. From the sound of it – it sounds like the best after-hours party you weren’t invited to – he’s going to pass. He’s a trooper. They do this every Wednesday night.

By now you’ve heard plenty about the Company around Columbus. In addition to increasing crowds and higher-profile gigs, they’re also gearing up to release their long-gestating second record, Just a Kiss, this month. They’re damn proud of it. Even with a cursory listen, the songs attest that the three years between albums was not spent resting on laurels. Many a good time was had and many a member of the Company departed and was replaced. Things changed for Tolford and you can hear it in the grooves.

“The first record was about what I was wanting in my life when I finally got the girl,” says Tolford of the shift in mood. “Just a Kiss is about having the girl, being in love, and everything that’s associated with that.”

Indeed, that sense of joy pervades the music. Tolford has switched from piano to Rhodes organ for a dirtier sound. The album is markedly in sync, even its looser, less color-by-numbers. It’s a full Company experience – where first record Extraordinary Love was the fleshing-out of Tolford’s first batch of demos, this album was written with the band in mind. More directly, Just a Kiss plays as a list of instructions, be it lyrics that demand attendance on a bar stool, or titles that demand action, like “Get Down” or “Cancel Your Plans.”

Soul “revival” is an extraneous term, a redundancy if only because soul has never really died. Though many in recent memory have tried to revive it and failed miserably, Tolford’s love of soul, and the amount of if that lives in his voice, give the Company’s music a modesty and grit that trumps the idea that there’s only showmanship. It’s easy to compare what they do to Motown and Stax, James Brown and Otis Redding, but they venture further out. The soul of the Company comes from the echoes of bygone Columbus labels like Capsoul and Prix and the same vibes those dreamers culled from the Ohio experience.

Here, they even live out a “pipe dream,” collaborating with veteran jazzman Eddie Bayard, who plays saxophone on the epic finale of “All Right.”

“Early on we made a conscious decision that we weren’t going to be a suits-and-ties soul band,” says guitarist Julian Dassai, “we were a ties-and-horns soul band. With the second album I can hear that we can pull things from everywhere and put it in the music. We aren’t in any kind of box when it comes to what we play.”

With soul as their template, it’s the feeling that goes into every note that makes all the difference. In that, Nick Tolford and Company succeed on many levels. Who else can turn a Bad Religion song into a gospel-tinged exorcism or an average night out into a carnal dance marathon? Huey Lewis and the News they are not. •

Listen In

“Delores” – If there’s a discernible turning point on the new album where Nick Tolford’s songwriting, and the Company’s airtight accompaniment starts to get what Tolford refers to as “nasty,” it’s on “Delores.” The energy that’s created during their rollicking live shows is palpable and contagious here with the whole band latching onto one of Tolford’s more complex and ascending Rhodes riffs. It’s like the nexus between Little Stevie and Stevie Wonder.

•Catch Tolford and Co. January 11 at Strongwater Food & Spirits, 401 W Town St.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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