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One Step Beyond

The Floorwalkers—Doc Robinson is one step beyond Chances are, if you’ve been to an outdoor festival or an open-air stage in Columbus, Ohio in the past few years, you’ve witnessed the work of both Nick D’Andrea and Jon Elliott. Respectively, they’ve been pop mainstays in the city’s scene in both Nick D. and the Believers [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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The Floorwalkers—Doc Robinson is one step beyond

Chances are, if you’ve been to an outdoor festival or an open-air stage in Columbus, Ohio in the past few years, you’ve witnessed the work of both Nick D’Andrea and Jon Elliott. Respectively, they’ve been pop mainstays in the city’s scene in both Nick D. and the Believers and The Floorwalkers. Among the culture vultures who have graduated into comfortable beards and post-modern coffee shops, these two bands are the soundtrack, mixing soul and funk with pop and traditional instrumentation. Both bands take party music past covers and mimicry to a level where deft musicianship and sharp songwriting take precedence—say Sly and the Family Stone, or Fitz and the Tantrums cut with slick Midwestern hubris.

Fans can take solace in the continued progress of the Believers and the Floorwalkers, but Doc Robinson, the duo’s new musical venture, takes that “all join in” approach to its logical summit.

“For this project, we pretty much forced ourselves to do it,” says Elliott of the Doc Robinson origin story. “We both come from the school of collaboration and the environment of songwriting workshops. So writing with another person, bouncing ideas back and forth, doesn’t just come naturally, it’s essential for me.”

Their synergy makes sense, as that teamwork is key in the quintets, octets, and larger configurations they’ve found themselves a part of over the years. On Doc Robinson’s upcoming album, Deep End, what started as sketches soon became grand affairs, with the duo assembling a “dream team” of the city’s finest musicians lending input and “adding their magic” to the final product. As a result, horns punctuate the sunshine folk of the title track, and strings swell underneath the blue-eyed soul of the album’s first single “I’m Not Gone.”

“We didn’t have everything demoed out when we went in to record,” says D’Andrea, “so a lot of the energy on the album and the ideas come from the different players who came in and helped. It was great to see that friendship. Everyone put themselves artistically into the project.”

Because of that, Deep End has a wash of orchestral color, taking the sound of indie-rock standard bearers, like the Black Keys and Fleet Foxes, and inflating it to what they’ve proclaimed as “backyard BBQ break-up songs.” And yes, while “Drive Slow” might come across as Sublime updated for optimistic millennials, there’s also a tinge of levity to their songs, one that contends with their laidback and congenial vibe.

Love songs for not-so-shiny, happy people.

“We’re definitely trying to give a realistic look at love,” say D’Andrea about Doc Robinson’s penchant for relationship stories. “Love is a constant battle, it’s always in flux, and at the end of the day we are pulling for the happy ending. It’s rough, but I’m going to stick it out. We look at those ups and downs, but kind of resolve that love can work.”

Still, variety is a virtue for Doc Robinson. It’s something that’s reflected in their perspective of the Columbus music scene. Getting their education from groups like the Hoodoo Soul Band and Hebdo, or jamming with jazzbos and open-mic rookies, has fed into the music they are making today. It’s gotten to a point where they can’t pinpoint “one specific style” that defines the city. From that well, they’ve tried their best to concentrate that polyglot circle in which they roll.

“Once we had a couple of songs in the bag, we knew it was a sound that was unique to what we were doing,” says Elliott. “Not that these songs didn’t fit into our other bands, but we became really invigorated and immediately proud of what we were making together. When you’ve got two people making decisions instead of six, that helps the creative process.”

As Doc Robinson, D’Andrea and Elliott are planning to make this the biggest thing either of them have ever done. The docket for the next year is full, with music videos, a collaboration with Experience Columbus, the release of the record, and a monthly residency that started in March at Woodland’s Tavern. Given their overly sunny disposition, I had to end the interview with a question about songwriting in the age of Trump and if that changes the dynamic they present.

“We are living in a time where we are the closest to science fiction as we every have been, and any kind of silver lining is disappearing,” say Elliott. “As a singer-songwriter you feel a responsibility to chime in. Just like the two Bobs. Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. But we think what we are doing shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We want to make positive art that is a nice escape from our current catastrophe.” •

See Doc Robinson perform at the Nelsvonville Music Festival at the beginning of June. For tickets, visit nelsonvillefest.org and for more about the band, visit docrobinsonofficial.com.

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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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Coronavirus

Breakaway Music Festival will not take place in 2020; to return in 2021

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Those in the music festival community have continued to rally their broken spirits behind live streams and classic archival sets in lieu of the live event industry being put on indefinite hold. 

With each passing day, though, hopes for any large concert gathering happening in 2020 seem incredibly bleak and unrealistic.

News from Midwest college market concert and music festival promoter Prime Social Group on Thursday further confirmed the modern hippie’s greatest fear: a summer void of camping out in otherworldy open fields and following their favorite musicians across the country. 

PSG operates a network of festivals under the Breakaway Music handle that take place annually in Columbus; Charlotte, North Carolina; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Washington D.C.; Nashville; and San Diego. The promotion company made the difficult decision to cancel all six of its 2020 editions of the EDM and pop-focused Breakaway Music Festival with a fully-committed plan to return in 2021. The decision was made due to health and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets to the event can be carried over for the 2021 edition of BMF. For those who choose this option, you’ll receive an extra ticket and merch bundle. PSG will also provide refunds if transferring tickets for 2021 is not an option.

Columbus has been making its claim as a music festival destination over the past few years. Breakaway, along with events like Sonic Temple, Wonderbus, and Buckeye Country Superfest, has been bringing quality acts to Columbus consistently. The festival’s presence will be greatly missed this upcoming August.

“Now more than ever, we could use that special sense of unity achieved through live events and music festivals,” said Prime Social managing partner Zach Ruben. “We cannot wait to Leave it All Behind and make memories with all of you again. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.”

In the meantime, Breakaway plans to release exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from past editions, new digital content, and various live streams. Visit breakawaymusicfestival.com to keep up to date with what PSG has in store.

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