The world doesn’t get it.
And that’s okay.
But the fact remains: The Midwest makes amazing music.
The number of truly impressive and effing amazing artists and bands in Columbus, OH area alone easily totals in the high hundreds.
At the city’s Ace of Cups, two of these bands are playing to a small but enthusiastic Friday night crowd.
With great Ohio beers on tap, an equally fine liquor selection and Ray-Ray’s BBQ right next to the patio, the only thing that rivals all of this is the music.
Tonight, three superior Midwest acts; Mery Steel, Hello June, and Drift Mouth take the stage and prove why you should be paying more attention to the Columbus, Ohio music scene.
First off, Mery Steel.
The self-proclaimed “weird adjacent twang”-y goodness of singer/songwriter and mult-instrumentalist, Ryan Stolte-Sawa, Mery Steel calls to mind the power of Neko Case and the effortless cool of Sharon Van Etten. Her music is immediately beautiful with a lingering cool that stirs echoes of everything from The Pretenders to Cowboy Junkies and Marissa Nadler to Lana Del Ray. Alongside longtime collaborators and cohorts, bassist Max Platitsyn, and guitarist Milo Petruziello, Mery Steel plays sweet and badass country-tinged songs about heartache, heartbreak, love, lust, and loss. This band is sharp, the tunes are hot and Stolte-Sawa is a star in the making. Go listen to “Minuet” and “Riverland” wherever you stream music now and try to tell me I’m wrong.
Next up, Hello June.
Hello June’s debut album came out just shy of a year ago and while most radio stations not NPR-related haven’t gotten with the program yet, these alt-radio-ready mid-tempo rockers shine and radiate in a way that few have shown they can. Sarah Rudy, the West Virginia’s group’s vocalist/guitarist is short in stature with an unassuming speaking voice, but draws immediate attention when that smokier, fuller singing voice comes out. And as is evident in singles, “Candy Rain,” “Mars” and “Handshakes,” she can seriously shred.
While drummer Whit Alexander provides the perfect backbeat, Sarah Rudy waxes poetic and commands her instrument, laying down intricate melodies and killer riffs alike.
Midwest bands have a tendency to be labeled “charming,” “quiet,” and “modest” a lot.
All of these are fitting, I suppose but for Hello June, it’s a clear case of rock smarter, not louder.
And they do.
Without further ado, Drift Mouth.
“I cut my teeth on Hank Williams and then along came Mudhoney in 1990. I’ve been trying to put the two together ever since.” Lou Poster of Drift Mouth tells me.
2019 is a long cry from 1990 and Ol’ Hank has been revered enough for some time to the point of being portrayed by the guy who played Loki in a biopic.
This fact in itself is reason enough to love and root for Columbus’ own Drift Mouth.
This is a band that would be right at home on a bill with Jason Isbell and Margot Price (artists who are striving to chisel out the epitaphs on the headstones of status quo country music).
Whie frontman Lou Poster has a discernible southern drawl (Appalachian he might say) when he sings, it’s subtle enough that doesn’t get in the way of the songs. And for sure, Drift Mouth have got the songs. Rockers, barn burners, and ballads.
“This is what country should be,” observes Miss Steel herself.
Agreed. Lucky for us all, where it should be and where it’s at line up perfectly on this particular Franklin County Friday night.
- Listen to Mery Steel on Spotify and follow on Instagram for tour dates, updates and more.
- Hello June are on tour now and their self-titled LP is available here and your favorite local independent record store.
- Drift Mouth are on tour now and Little Patch of Sky is available here and at your favorite local independent record store.