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Class of 2016: didi

What’s in a name? For Columbus’s didi, it carries quite a lot of cachet. The path to giving the quartet a moniker was just as much of a panoply of creative inspiration as their music suggests. It started with guitarist and vocalist Meg Zakany suggesting the name based simply on aesthetics and the syllabic repetition—a [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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What’s in a name? For Columbus’s didi, it carries quite a lot of cachet. The path to giving the quartet a moniker was just as much of a panoply of creative inspiration as their music suggests. It started with guitarist and vocalist Meg Zakany suggesting the name based simply on aesthetics and the syllabic repetition—a lowercased nod to e. e. cummings or an endless chant. The cosmos aligned when bassist Leslie Shimizu revealed that didi was how she addressed her beloved grandmother. Further research will tell you didi is also Hindu for “sister” and “younger brother” in Chinese. It makes complete sense, as didi commiserate as a non-nuclear family both on stage and in conversation.

It’s that same familial confluence of four distinct personalities (including guitarist Kevin Bilapka-Arbelaez and drummer Shenna McGrath) that formed their blissfully shoegazing sound. Though didi’s origins start at VVK, a campus house that hosts a bevy of under-the-radar shows with the splintering handful of other trenchant and spartan bands, they abandoned their punk sound in favor of a particularly nostalgic ‘90s vibe. Think The Breeders doing a prismatic deconstruction of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.

“When I was first in college all I listened to was punk,” says Zakany. “But eventually it became unlistenable. I was disinterested. I gravitated back to that moment in high school where you were discovering things and researching bands and finding who you are. Those ‘90s alternative bands were the ones that I really connected with, where I know every word.”

“Still a lot of people call it post-pop,” says McGrath, attempting to describe the songs of didi’s self-titled debut. “I’m not even sure what that means exactly, or if it’s a thing. I guess post-anything is a thing these days. We’re definitely post-irony.”

“Post-everything” might be the best signifier. didi is a group that you stumble upon by accident and instantly fall in love with. You want to keep it like a secret and never try to paint the sound into a corner. Visit their Bandcamp page and you’ll see a number of out-there tags—from “teacher bop” to “brunette swing,” or “massage metal” and “pix-gazi.” Melodies exist but take linear routes around the squall of distorted, angular guitars. It’s all a noisy foil to the melancholic hues that lurk in the center of the music.

“Our songs are very personal—they are not sing-alongs,” says Bilapka-Arbelaez. “This is the poppiest thing I’ve ever done, and in a way, putting all of those personal elements into that is us being subversive. That sheen draws you in, but once you delve into the lyrics it gets pretty dark.”

As such, didi doubles as a sort of therapy for these friends. In a stroke of pure democracy, each member contributes songs; their process usually involves a constant trading of ideas and suggestions, challenging each other to meet the high expectations of the band. Shimizu refers to the back and forth as “really f*cking exhausting,” but totally worth it as they all possess the same drive. Currently, the goal is “to head to the studio this summer with a batch of 10 songs to record an intentional album full of life, with a hint of dance.” With enthusiastic co-signs from Saintseneca and Speedy Ortiz, and a west coast tour on the horizon, didi is bound to accumulate a zealous audience of secret admirers. Though first and foremost, the goal has always been to impress themselves.

“We cry at each other’s songs,” concludes Shimizu. “That’s how much trust we have that everyone is here to continue this as long as we can.” – Kevin J. Elliott

For more, visit didicolumbus.bandcamp.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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