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Father Superior

Husband, father, coffee shop owner, armchair pitching coach, and, perhaps, one day, public official—these are the roles filled by songwriter Colin Gawel ever since the once nonstop machine of Watershed decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. Since then, he has made an emotional fortune in domesticity. Yet, as busy as the family life may be, [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Husband, father, coffee shop owner, armchair pitching coach, and, perhaps, one day, public official—these are the roles filled by songwriter Colin Gawel ever since the once nonstop machine of Watershed decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. Since then, he has made an emotional fortune in domesticity.

Yet, as busy as the family life may be, Gawel hasn’t given up on his eternal quest for rock stardom. He’s spent three decades cultivating that persona, but for the last six years he’s done it mostly alone, writing songs when he can and assembling bands made up of friends gathered along the way. Those results appear on this month’s release of Superior: The Best of Colin Gawel.

The album isn’t so much a “greatest hits” package, as much as it is a collection of snapshots from various sessions, single releases, and digital EPs. A good half of Superior was recorded alongside the Lonely Bones, a crack staff of musicians Gawel formed in the void of Watershed, while the other half features a variety of notable players who were in the “right place at the right time.” The hooks and melodies one would expect on a Watershed album remain, but there’s certainly been a mellowing out for the songwriter, and Superior boasts what Gawel contends is a rootsier, more reflective side of himself.

Still, that doesn’t mean Gawel has given up on any of those dreams—he’s just channeled his creative efforts into myriad other “pet” projects, be it the Buckeye-themed punk of the Dead Schembechlers, who just released the mocking “Harbaugh to Hell” (“Michigan hates it more than Ohio loves it”), his popular culture blog Pencilstorm.com discusses Reds baseball and Kiss with equal aplomb, or his Cheap Trick cover band, Why Isn’t Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?, the publicity for which may or may not have influenced the Rockford, Illinois power-pop legends recent HOF nomination. It’s really all in day’s work for Gawel.

The tales from the ’90s in Columbus are always a topic of contention or introspection. From your perspective, was it as magical as it is remembered? I was aware that there were a lot of great bands playing all the time. I was in the moment. When we were coming up there was the RC Mob and the Toll, and they were from two different camps. But those bands eventually went away and in came the Haynes Boys, Scrawl, and New Bomb Turks—there was Willie Phoenix and of course, Gaunt. I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of other bands. For us, it was just every weekend there were good bands playing. You’d go to Stache’s and there would always be a good show from a local band. Like Greenhorn. F**k,  Greenhorn was awesome.

Well, where do you think that Watershed fit in that mythology? We weren’t as good at that time. We were a little young and a little green. We weren’t punk enough to be punk, jam enough to be a jam band, or frat enough to be frat. We never had a readymade crowd. We would just take any gigs we could get and promote our own thing. We tried to play out of town. We had our own insular unit. So I kind of don’t know where we fit? But one thing is that we would actively see everybody, all the time. For better or for worse, you would see those guys out at the bars. We made a conscious effort not to confine ourselves into one little niche.

…our talk veers into a lengthy timeline of Watershed through the band’s mistakes and triumphs. There was the quick deal with Epic Records in 1995, the resurgence with their 2002 album, The More It Hurts, The More It Works, and the recent success of guitarist Joe Oestreich’s book about that journey, Hitless Wonder.

Watershed indeed survived those days, so what prompted the release of this “best of” your solo songs, the Superior album? There was one day when Joe decided to move out of town and get a real job. I understood. I would have preferred to keep the band together, but I knew that was not reality. Around that time Mike Landolt moved to town and that was a blessing. He was legit and he did a lot of front-of-the-house work for the Goo Goo Dolls and the Replacements, so he was talented. He started moving his gear here from L.A. and eventually found a studio. We started doing songs together, but put them out as singles, as they came. This was 2009, and you have to think about how you are going to put out a record. There’s no reason to think about how you’re going to put out a full record when you can do an EP today. We did “Words We Say” and the Chemotherapy EP and I realized that these were things I could never do with Watershed. No one was out to get rich from this. After a while though, we saw there was enough there to do a full record.

If you had to define what separates these songs from what you would do on a Watershed record, how would you do that? Garageband is a crazy thing. I’m always motivated to some degree, but there’s only so much creative time in the day. What I try to do, is, in moments, is always put an idea down. I sing it on my phone. Basically I’ll assemble things, and every once in a while it will just come. “Superior” was a song like that. Whereas the line in “Chemotherapy” I’ve had for 10 years and one day I just had to push it and finish it. I try to write about where I’m at now. It doesn’t matter where you write that, as long as you write about that moment, it makes it valid forever. Some of them hit a little too close to home, so they wouldn’t end up on a Watershed record.

You also recently wrote a lot of songs for the latest Erica Blinn album. Is that something you’d like to do for other musicians? If I were smart I would do it more, but it’s just not genuine to me. Erica is genuine—she’s the real deal. I’m really proud of that record. She’s a natural… I felt good about the album and was happy to help, but I’m not here to manage careers. I liked the idea of helping get that going.

What has kept you here all of these years? What is it about Columbus music that keeps you involved? Well I’m definitely not up on the latest bands, but for me it has always been such a great scene. There are so many places to play now that it’s shocking. Who’s going to all of these shows? We are a creative city. From a rock viewpoint,  it’s the geography of Columbus that creates the sound. We are basically north, but just enough West Virginia to make it edgy and uncommercial. Columbus is never going to be Husker Du and we are never going to be Widespread Panic.

Colin Gawel will celebrate the release of Superior December 23 at Woodlands Tavern (1200 W Third Ave). For more, visit music.colingawel.com.

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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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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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