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Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing

It’s a sub-zero January night at The Spacebar, and the three men of The Black Antler are gearing up for the final slot in a lineup full of some of Columbus’s heaviest hitters. It’s so bitterly cold that muscles ache, shivers turn to seizures, and a regular smoke outside seems like punishment rather than leisure. [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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It’s a sub-zero January night at The Spacebar, and the three men of The Black Antler are gearing up for the final slot in a lineup full of some of Columbus’s heaviest hitters. It’s so bitterly cold that muscles ache, shivers turn to seizures, and a regular smoke outside seems like punishment rather than leisure. In the course of my interview with the band, I theorize that such harsh environs breed dark, aggressive music. The band contends that they’d be the same band if they were based in Southern California, but there is something to be said about the parallel of long Ohio winters and the thriving metal scene Columbus has nurtured in the last decade. There’s a “survival of the fittest” mentality, a healthy competition that challenges each new group to be louder, faster, and more brutal than what has come before it—at least that’s what The Black Antler’s recently released disc 100 Wolves throttles the listener into believing.

Then again, The Black Antler shy away from being compared to the lineage of Columbus legend. With Teeth of the Hydra, Deadsea, Struck by Lightning, and our current overlords, EYE, metal in Columbus has endured myriad shifts, enough that it has fragmented into a handful of glyphs both difficult and easy to lump together. The new album faithfully includes it all—there’s the confrontational thrust of thrash, the arcane bleakness of the blackest Scandinavians, a bit o’ doom when necessary—yet the EP sounds like none of the above. It’s a quality that can be attributed to founders Adam Lowe (guitar and vocals) and Alex Weinhardt (drums) kicking around in indie bands like Six Gallery and Teeth on Teeth before gravitating toward their unified love for hardcore and forming The Black Antler as a duo in 2009. The missing link was a bass player, that void filled when Ryan Moya joined to complete their brutal tri-force. Even as the band evolved into what it is today, there was never a desire to create only “metal,” since the group’s affiliations and influences run the gamut.

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Mixing metal with hardcore and nerdy angles adds some diversity to the scene, says Weinhardt. “We don’t just consider ourselves as part of the Columbus metal scene or the hardcore scene. We’re all friends with a bunch of other different musicians in different types of bands, so we like to think that we’re more a part of a larger collective.”

Indeed, what sets them apart is their dedication to find a nexus of extremes, be it the raw with the meticulous, the blunt and sharp, or grunting and screaming when they’re being overtly literate. Go beyond the larynx shredding vocals, read the lyrics, and there’s nerdy intrigue in what Lowe aims to promote through The Black Antler’s hyperprose.

“We try to keep it from being preachy or extremely personal,” said Lowe of the band’s lyrical balance between the political and the terrestrial. “I try to be more out and about, to be more attainable for everybody and reach a broader audience.”

“the reason why we do this is because it’s a release. It’s a way to let out energy and anxiety during this time of year when you are cooped up in your house.”

Understandably, 100 Wolves, even with its basic delivery, is conceptually designed. There are calls for the head of the now-deceased leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps (on “Beheaded/Dethroned”), and lobbyists portrayed as bloodthirsty canine on the title track, “animal instincts,” and the “iron law of reciprocity.”

It’s fundamentally a record teeming with Man versus (Fill in the Blank) conflict. “Medicate” even posits Lowe’s lifelong struggle with asthma against humanity’s existential battle against Mother Nature. (A sample lyric: “fill my lungs, half full, half empty/it’s like a snake wrapped around a snake, wrapped around me.”) Toward the end of our interview, we’ve come full circle. Inherently, Lowe and The Black Antler’s ultimate concern is how nature, and those who choose to disrupt nature’s cycle (i.e. politicians, bigots, religious zealots), is out to get us. When it comes down to it, being in a band with this much aggression is just another way to combat nature’s merciless stranglehold.

“If anything, the reason why we do this is because it’s a release,” said Weinhardt. “It’s a way to let out energy and anxiety, and definitely during this time of year when you are cooped up in your house, you don’t see the daylight and you can’t go outside and simply run around to do that. This is our way to release that energy.”

“Certainly when it’s a frigid tundra,” concluded Lowe, “you’re not going to write about happy times.”

The Black Antler will celebrate the release of 100 Wolves with a release show at The Spacebar on February 28. For more, visit theblackantler.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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