Concert Review: The Ohio City Singers live at The House of Blues

The Ohio City Singers

Ten holiday seasons and several Holiday-themed albums have come since the birth of the Cleveland band The Ohio City Singers. In that time, the band has gained a bigger audience that has comes to know the band’s holiday music. And with that larger audience comes a larger following that shows up at the band’s concerts. That ever-increasing audience size has led to a certain amount of success for the band:

When The Ohio City Singers originally came into being, the band was welcomed into the Cleveland area’s House of Blues where the band was invited to perform in that venue’s Cambridge Room, a venue that the band would begin to fill over the years and has since come to outgrow. That growth led the venue to move the band from the smaller venue into the main room. And that was where this year’s concert for the band took place. The change of venues seemed like a good move for the band who has just celebrated ten years as a group. And the choice of new venue for the band seemed to have been a good move as the crowd that showed up for the December 16th concert would easily have filled the Cambridge Room to overflowing and the audience would have spilled out into the House of Blues’ lobby.

While the assembled audience for the concert was not large enough to be a sellout for the main room, the band’s usual fanbase blend of family, friends, relatives and fans of the individual musicians in the group combined to be an impressive crowd. And naturally, the crowd was very attentive and reactive to the music set from the group. The Ohio City Singers began their concert at Cleveland’s House of Blues by gradually filling the stage by staggering their numbers onto the stage. As they walked onstage, they continued to chant the phrase “Come On, Come On,” the sing-along section to the song “Memories of Red and Green”.

While “Memories of Red and Green” was the track that welcomed the band onstage, it was “The OCS Theme” that truly began the band’s concert. That song segued into the next track of “Ghosts of Christmas” by way of a strong drumbeat that kept the rhythm going. Through “Memories of Red and Green,” “The OCS Theme” and “Ghosts of Christmas,” Chris Allen took the lead as singer. And while Allen handled the majority of the singing throughout the night, several of the band members took their turns at lead vocal. In fact, the next song after “Ghosts of Christmas” featured Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat on lead vocals. With Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat as the lead vocalist, the band’s sound seemed to take on a slightly stronger vibe to it. That was probably because of Charanghat’s stronger, deeper and rougher vocals. The songs “One Day Closer” and “All I Want for Christmas is a Happy New Year” ended up being two of the strongest songs up to that point in the show.

Once “All I Want for Christmas is a Happy New Year” came to an end, the flow of the concert was “interrupted” by the band’s producer, Don Dixon, as he made an announcement that a snow storm was on its way, a running gag in the band’s history each time they perform the title track of the album Snow Days. And when the band launched into “Snow Days,” the audience came to life as they joined in on the merriment of the song. With the band creating their own holiday music, most of the songs from The Ohio City Singers’ concerts consist of their own material. But from time to time, the band breaks from their own material to include a few holiday standards. For this concert, the band broke into the songs “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” and “I Saw Three Ships” which helped to add a more recognizable festive feeling to their concert.

To help bring the song “I Saw Three Ships” to life, the band‘s music producer Don Dixon stepped to the front of the stage. For most of the concert, Dixon stayed in the back of the band where he added touches to the music such as percussion, trombone and other elements on several tracks. But it was on “I Saw Three Ships” that Dixon took over the spotlight as he performed the song on guitar with just a simple bass from Tom Prebish and drum from Fred Perez-Stable. The resulting song gave the Christmas standard a Blues/Swing feel to it.

All Photos: Rockin' Al @ TheRustBeltChronicles

Since about three-fourths of The Ohio City Singers make up about three-fourths of the Cleveland-based Pogues cover band Boys from the County Hell, it’s no surprise that the two bands’ sounds would eventually end up mixing. With “White Cleveland Christmas,” the song found bassist Tom Prebish handling the vocals for the Pogues-flavored song. The feel and energy of the music led to one of the strongest moments of the night. That energy was helped along with the double axe attack from Austin “Candy Cane” Charanghat and Doug McKean and the accordion playing from Nick Stipanovich. Together, the three musicians helped to give the track its full Pogues sound.

As most of the band consists of singer-songwriters who perform solo, the result is a group that is full of individuals who can all take the lead at one time or another in the setlist for The Ohio City Singers. One such musician in the band that takes a backseat for most of the concert to allow the other members of the group to have their time in the spotlight is Brent Kirby, a musician who fills the role of drummer for the band. But for a few songs each performance for The Ohio City Singers, Kirby is able to step to the front while band percussionist Fred Perez-Stable takes over the drumkit. For the few minutes that Kirby was out front, the band seemed to have a slightly stronger feel to it. That was probably due to Kirby’s energetic delivery as well as Perez-Stable’s time on the drumkit.

Speaking of the various people who took to the spotlight during the December 16th concert, vocalist Kelly Wright had a few moments in the spotlight herself. While she spent most of the time on stage adding texture to the band’s music with her background vocals, Wright took her place in front of the band for a few songs. In fact, on the song “Baby, Don’t You Know it’s Christmas,” she shared the spotlight with the evening’s opening singer-songwriter Alexis Antes. Together, the duo added a feminine touch to the evening’s festivities.

Throughout the ten years of existence, The Ohio City Singers have released several albums of original music. Recently, the band just released a digital-only compilation of music from every past release. All Wrapped Up, the newest Ohio City Singers album, is available on I-tunes.

Alexis Antes

  

Speaking of singer-songwriter Alexis Antes, she opened for the December 16th concert. Having been a large part of the Cleveland Music Scene going back into the early nineties, Antes has been creating her own Folk-Rock music nor nearly twenty years. In that time, she has created three albums of original Folk Rock music with a few covers thrown into the mix. Her newest album, 13, is the album that Antes focused on for her performance before The Ohio City Singers. Songs like “Two Hearts,” “End to the Story,” “The Things I Love About You” and “Two Hearts” comprised the songwriter’s set of mainly original music. And since Antes was opening for an all Christmas-themed band, she included a few holiday covers of her own. The nearly forty-minute set from Alexis Antes featured just the musicians and her guitar, except for one song when she invited Kelly Wright onstage to help her bring one of the very few Christmas songs to life. Since Alexis Antes’ set was the simple “lady and her guitar” setup, the use of lights helped to add a defining difference between the tracks. And although her solo setup was a lot different from the whole band setup for The Ohio City Singers, Alexis Antes gave the audience gathered for the concert a very energetic set of music.

Alexis Antes has created three albums of original music herself. The newest release from Antes is entitled 13.

All Photos: Rockin' Al @ TheRustBeltChronicles

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