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This is Really It

Playing lead guitar in one of the 21st century’s biggest rock bands carries gigantic cache. For Albert Hammond Jr., the revelry and responsibility of the job he’s held in The Strokes since their inception in 1999, has also cast an equally large shadow over his life. But with that big machine now running on fumes [...]
Kevin J. Elliott



Playing lead guitar in one of the 21st century’s biggest rock bands carries gigantic cache. For Albert Hammond Jr., the revelry and responsibility of the job he’s held in The Strokes since their inception in 1999, has also cast an equally large shadow over his life. But with that big machine now running on fumes and a public battle with addiction far behind him, Hammond seems determined that his third solo album, Momentary Masters, is the beginning of another chapter. Maybe even another book altogether.

Brimming with the crystalline guitar melodies that made him famous, Momentary Masters is the slacker indifference of the Strokes put into overdrive. It’s focused and sharp, more quirky and playful. While the cliché of reinvention might be a stretch for Hammond on this record—it’s a must-have for anyone who has been a fan since the salad days of Is This It?—the idea of reinvigoration is on full display. In speaking with Hammond as he drove through the streets of his now permanent home of Los Angeles, that demeanor of positivity was prevalent. Certainly some shade and frustration was directed at his past, and future role in the Strokes, yet the theme was always self-direction and how’s he’s thriving in the present moment.

When you released your new album earlier this year, you talked about wanting your solo career to stand on its own legs. Do you think you are accomplishing that goal now? I do. As the tour goes on, people get it more, and there’s a connection I’m getting from the audience. You walk into a room and there’s no vibe, but by the end of the set you’ve brought all of these people closer to you. It’s a positive step towards doing that. I want nothing more than to have success and plays bigger shows if only because I want to keep making music and playing with these guys.

I’m interested in the band and the dynamic you have with them as the leader, opposed to playing on the side with the Strokes. It’s built up over many years of knowing people, finding the right personalities, and making a connection when you go into the studio. You just know. I’ve always been told I’m just a guitarist, but in my head I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do. The guys will tell you that I’m the best band leader they’ve experienced, so maybe I learned a lot from, you know, all those years being in a band.

“I’d forgotten what it was like
to love music when you’re a kid.
I get more excited now about playing songs and writing than
I did when I was younger.”

How do you decide between what you bring to the group and what you keep for an album like Momentary Masters? Any of those songs could fit on a Strokes album. It doesn’t work with me bringing songs to the band. Either they don’t want them or they don’t grow. And that’s fine. I don’t even really think about it anymore. I’m accomplishing what I want by myself and it’s more exciting. The other one feels dead in the water to be honest.

Seems like you are very happy in these songs. There’s a lot of fun and an energy on Momentary Masters. What then was the inspiration? I’d guess I’d forgotten what it was like to love music when you’re a kid. As you start to get older you start to ask questions about who you are and what you’re doing. You start to get lost. I imagine rehab and getting clean really had a lot to do with me revaluating everything. I get more excited now about playing songs and writing than I did when I was younger, which is kind of funny. Back then I was writing more with ambition than with actual skill and using what I learn every day.

With all of the momentum you have now, there’s been news that The Strokes are back in the studio. Is that something that prohibits your solo work at all?  Well we didn’t tour Comedown Machine, and I put out my EP, and there was just no word for a while. So I told the people that I work with that I was going to tour this record for a year and get it to stand on its own two feet and if they didn’t want to be a part of that then I would have to find other people. It’s too good for me to not give it everything I have. It would be silly to just let it sit there. That whole cycle of an album—writing and recording and projecting those songs live and connecting with an audience—is what I love and what gets me excited, and we didn’t seem to be doing it anymore. I can’t wait. I can’t sit around and be 45 and not be able to do it. There’s a plan to record in February when I’m off, but I’m not really thinking about it. It’s not that I don’t care. I love it very much, but it’s not what’s in front of me right now.

That said, as a solo artist, this is your priority. So are you writing even more, quickening the pace, thinking well into the future? It’s always been a priority, but my life has always been such a mess so I’ve never been able to showcase this. Now I can. I’m in the right place. I also want to showcase the band, and their talents. I always like a variety, instead of just me hashing things out. The problem is you want to make money so you can keep doing it. I don’t want to make money to have a particular lifestyle. That’s not the case. I want to make money so that I can continue to work with these people, and record, and tour. It’s a gift not a given. You have to earn the right. I feel like that’s why we are going around and spreading the word. We belong here and I’m going to show you why.

Albert Hammond Jr. plays the Basement on November 6. Visit for music and more information.

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Arts & Culture

What’s Open: Venues slowly start to roll out live music




When it was announced in mid-May that wedding venues and banquet halls would reopen at the beginning of June, the next question became: When will music venues be next?

Although the rollout has been slow and will be gradual, Columbus venues and attractions that regularly house live music are making their comeback. When the high-spirited, good-feeling cover band Popgun graced the Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen on May 27, many people’s greatest fears of being robbed of live music for the rest of the year were eased maybe a little.

The only way for us to get currently get down to live music is to sit down, which is a fair trade-off given the times.

Check out a few Columbus venues that are set to reopen or have reopened under strict coronavirus guidelines.

  • The Forum Columbus -- The Forum welcomed back live music on May 29 with a tabled RSVP DJ showcase. For this event, guests were required to come in groups of no more than 10, be seated six feet apart from other groups, and remain seated unless you have to use the restroom. There are no future events planned as of this publishing.
  • Otherworld  -- The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance. It’s unclear when the next time Otherworld will host live music, but this is a giant step in the right direction in terms of venue re-openings.
  • South Drive-In -- It’s not a venue in Columbus that traditionally holds music, but it’s become one and may stay one for the time being. Viral DJ Marc Rebillet will be bringing his sold-out drive-in show to the South Drive-In on June 14. With these types of performances popping up all around the country and the South Drive-In owner getting plenty of event requests, we will hopefully be seeing more shows of this nature in the warmer months.
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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause




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




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:

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here:

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