Hear the Bern

words BLAISE WELLER | photography MATT STEFFEN

Regardless of your political views, you’d have to be dead not to have heard some of the buzz around Bernie Sanders, and not know that support for him and his campaign are still growing. With Spike Lee personally buying ad space on the airways and giving speeches on behalf of the Sanders’ Campaign, Killer Mike, the ever popular Atlanta Rapper and respected activist more recently throwing his support in the same corner of the ring, and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates among many, many others voicing their support. One thing also very clear, there were many, many Cincinnati Artists and musicians active and present, sharing their art in support of the activist Sanders at the “Bernin Down the House” event at the Southgate House Revival.

Lost Coast
Lost Coast

The doors opened at four and by six you would have been hard-pressed to find a parking spot within several blocks. Beyond the amount of supporters that showed up, what became evident was the mix of ages, generations, and backgrounds of the audience. Writers, musicians, blue and white collared workers and artisans all gathered in support. Plenty of 20 somethings, the majority of attendees thirty and over, together with an impressively large showing of 50, 60 and up in attendance. Similar to the unique generational and milieu mix, so was the music. Rock, Indie Rock, Rock-a-Billy, Electronic, Folk, and soulful, angelic singing.

Event organizer, Matt Ogden, said he was moved to act because of Bernie’s passion. “Morrella Raleigh (owner of the Southgate house) offered her support. We had 26 days to fill the open date and this is what happened,” he stated smiling, tilting his head to the filled house and many bands. “These aren’t just bands performing to fill a space. These are bands, the majority of their members of which are adamant supporters.” Fitting that the Southgate House Revival would be the place for the benefit, a place that has always been about and supporting local artists.

Scott Smith, an independent media producer and former Republican and Reagan supporter said, “Before Bernie came along, I only voted. Over the years, I’ve become so disenchanted with the state of our government and who it represents.” He believes so much in Sanders’ activism that it inspired him to become an activist himself, donating every month to the campaign together with volunteering his skills because he hopes “to change the establishment.”

One of Cincinnati’s most intelligent and respected voices both in the earliest music scenes and through his activism, Robert Sturdevant, aka Jughead, came out along with his band Public Figure to pledge their support. The four piece band played mostly folk and old union hymns such as “Which Side Are You On”. Often playing for union halls, many of their songs echoing the sentiment of the band and head man. Sturdevant, a union officer in a local teacher’s union offered, “It seems many of us are disenchanted with American politics because the normal guy has absolutely no say whatsoever, while the special interests seem to get all of the benefits that many of us need.”

Whiskey Shambles
Whiskey Shambles

One of the first bands on the main stage was Whiskey Shambles. Comparable to the wonderful taste and bite of smooth, perfectly aged whiskey. It’s like listening to BLS only with a soulful backup singer, moments similar to Merry Clayton in the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Both during the set and after, Shambles’ intelligent leadman Nathan Singer, an adjunct professor, offered their reasons for support, echoed by many at the show. Ranging from “growing income disparity,” to “a system that less and less works for everyone.” Singer asserted, “Say what you will, but Bernie was the first public voice to talk about these issues.” His co-vocalist of soul, Latanya proclaimed, “I don’t hear anyone, but this man, speaking to my concerns. Things like student loans and minimum wage. Things I’ve been dealing with all my life.”

Jetlab took the Sanctuary next with the thin-lead jumping side to side behind synthesizer and keyboard keeping the crowd heated with an energy and imperfect-vocals somehow reminiscent of Freddie Mercury.

Terror Electric with the heavy Black Sabbath-ian, Queens of the Stoneage-like guitar of Ben Morgan kept the supporters heads nodding. Similar to Band of Skulls but stronger, smoother, more experienced, solid sound.

Seedy Seeds with singer Margaret Darling were back in action for the show, doing their one-of-a-kind pop-rock much to the crowds’ enjoyment.

Black Signal
Black Signal

Two Inch Winky kept the fire stoked in The Lounge with their strong and solid Ramone-esque sound. If you like punk, the likelihood of being entertained by the strength of Tom Caruso’s voice together with the band’s skilled punk-sound are as probable as the lead’s repeated gesture of flipping everyone the bird.

Black Signal, an electronic, synthesizing duo standing before their boards in their signature insect, alien, lighted helmets, included guest performer Jess Lamb.  Earlier, Lamb gave her own separate haunting dance theatrical performance, singing over her own vocal track for harmony, sounding very much like Florence and the Machine. Other guest performer, Phil Smith of Eugenuis took the mike from the beautiful sounding Jess, and began rapping his Rage Against the Machine style of rap, inciting the audience like gasoline being poured on a bonfire.

Back in the Lounge, the lovely Emmie Bishop of Little Lights, the polar opposite of Winky, warmed and soothed everyone with her angelic voice. Like Dido slowed down, she calmed the excited crowd.

The Forealism Tribe completed the night with captivating synthesizing-electronic sounds, dressed and dancing in homemade, black suit made of broken pieces of vinyl records. Looking like spooky creatures from Where the Wild Things Are, the crowd was humored, unable to look away, moved and enthused to dance along.

Throughout the show, our very own lovely Sarah Cochran of Cochran Photography volunteered her time and professional skills to take photos of the many supporters, setting up a photo booth where supporters could sport white Bernie tiaras and his signature black framed, nerd glasses.

The spirit of the Southgate House Revival and its very own history, a resurrection of sorts, are examples of re-birth in and of themselves. This thread reflected in the beautiful stain glass windows, a symbol of hope rekindled, was also repeated in this event in support of Bernie Sanders. It was more than just a few ‘berning’ embers. When you witnessed and heard our many talented musicians here in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky along with the many supporters that came out, it was excitement, fueled and fanned by action. Like the House does, it felt like a jam packed, old revival once again filled with hope.



Blaise Weller is a Writer and Professor at NKU where he teaches Creative Writing, Literature and Film. Questions? Comments? Contact him at wellerb2@nku.edu