PLAYING COLUMBUS: Flyover Fest 2018

All photos by Kaiya Gordon

Over the past eight and a half months I’ve spent living in and writing about Columbus, I’ve been introduced to so many crevices of the city’s arts and music scene, each one as remarkable and needed as the last. Columbus houses long-term open mic nights, hip-hop collectives and labels, jazz improvisers, experimental electronic musicians and DJs, publishing houses and presses (both well-known and new), a DIY scene that draws touring acts from around the country, locally-own galleries, and ever-expanding dance companies. It is, in relative terms, a small city; one in which even the most illustrious artists can be seen in intimate venues with dirt-cheap well drinks. In Columbus, I can see slam champion Rachel Wiley at a small burlesque bar; award-winning writers Hanif Abdurraqib and Kaveh Akbar in a black box theater; rising star Nnamdi Ogbonnaya on a stage almost floor-level; I can go to a book fair hosting emerging neighborhood library projects alongside punk cornerstone Don Giovanni Records. And–for better or worse–in Columbus I can (and will) run into people I know at each and every one of those events: teachers, colleagues, co-organizers, classmates, and friends.

Last weekend, at Columbus’ Flyover Fest, I did all of those things–all of the events, the socializing, the book buying, and more–within a two-block radius. The Fest, which was started last year by Two Dollar Radio, a local book-publisher and film producer, is held in a smattering of independent bars and venues, as well as in the Wexner Center for the Arts on OSU’s campus. Stages are shared by both community and touring artists, and at the heart of the fest is an interdisciplinary approach to the city’s art-making scene. I was excited by the varied bills, which never stuck to one genre or aesthetic, and which, though long, always felt worth staying through. Crowds were casual and light-hearted; unlike so many of the shows I go to, I was never pushed, or hit on, or yelled at, or spilled upon. It was nice.

The moments when I felt most held, most inspired, came while watching performances by local musicians. Sharon Udoh of Counterfeit Madison, who played at the Ace of Cups on Friday night, continues to be one of the most joyous and talented performers I’ve ever seen, able to simultaneously play an almost impossibly electrified keyboard, breeze through a technically challenging vocal performance, and recklessly manipulate her body onstage. While Udoh flipped her keyboard from its stand, continuing to play it even as it dropped across her body, my friend turned to me, amazed. “I can’t believe how much control she has,” he said.

Equally exciting was Sarob’s performance at Spacebar on Saturday night. The rapper was sandwiched between local band WYD and hip-hop pillar Open Mike Eagle, who Sarob repeatedly cited as an inspiration and icon. Sarob is young, but looms large during his performances, engaging willfully with the crowd as he dances and jumps between the stage and the floor. His songs move between soul and verse; even when he raps too fast to catch all of the words, the delivery is sharp enough to sting, smartly, like a slapped ruler. Like Udoh, Sarob plays at local shows frequently, and, like Udoh, he’s worth seeing at every possible opportunity.

Check out my photos from Flyover Fest to see more of my favorite moments:






INTERVIEW: Kristine Leschper of Mothers


During the Savannah Stopover festival, two women sit down late at night in a dimly lit park with a box of fried chicken. One of them is me, and she unceremoniously asks a series of interview questions through mouthfuls of greasy bird. The other, a dainty, stormy-eyed fawn of Czechoslovakian stock bearing a last name bursting with consonants, answers them comprehensively. Her name is Kristine Leschper and she is the vocalist and lead guitarist of the band Mothers, who released their debut album When You Walk A Long Distance You are Tired earlier this year to glowing accolades of music writers and regular-Jo(sephin)e listeners alike. Mothers is a composite of musical ideologies resulting from Athens GA’s storied art-school scene, folk composition, rocks both indie and math and even a smattering of prog polyrhythm. Everything you want to think about how mesmerizing Kristine is based on the music she makes is completely true. Here’s what I mean:

Joanie Wolkoff for AudioFemme: You guys are on the go these days.

Kristine Leschper: Even though I say I live in Athens, it doesn’t really feel like it; when I look at our spreadsheet, we’re touring 10 out of 12 months. It’s so nice when we’re home again, but it’s a rarity. It doesn’t feel like we live anywhere.

Do you like it?

It’s a lack of comfort but I like it.

Part of the lore surrounding the forming of Mothers is tied in with how you took a left turn from printmaking in college to music. How’s this shift to music treating you?

Suddenly we were just on tour forever! This came out of nowhere. Our drummer Matt wanted to sign a six month lease and we said, “We’d have to be touring so much for you to not sign that lease,” but then a month down the road we found out how much we’d be traveling and were like: “It’d be stupid for you to sign this lease.” So he doesn’t have a place right now. Which is cool for him.

Cool for him of cool of him?

I think it’s cool for him to not have a place right now, to be experiencing that. At the same time, though, I’m really glad I have a home.

How did you meet?

We were all just living in Athens and playing music. We knew what we were all up to and had mutual respect for each other, and we we were all into what the other was doing. It was organic.

What were you listening to while you taught yourself how to play guitar?

The Microphones’ The Glow Part 2 which is written in a linear style was a big thing for me. Just the fact that when they write songs they have an “anything can happen” outlook and it doesn’t have to be a specific structure. Also Don Caballero’s American Don and other mathier music with complicated rhythms.

Do you identify with art school rock? Prog?

Maybe a little bit. Mothers is really affected by things that were happening in Athens in the late seventies and early eighties, like Pylon who where college-aged visual artists and didn’t play any instruments, so it was this guessing game of self-taught musicians. It was this desire to figure something out without being properly taught. We’re tied into a lot of Athens’ songwriting history.

Do you write together?

We’re not really a band that can get together and stand in the same room and jam. It has to be more defined, so me and Matt, our drummer, get together, hash out what’s been in our heads and then bring it to the other guys later. Otherwise it risks never turning into anything. Me and Matt have been playing together for the longest as far as Mothers go. He was the first person that I really started playing music with; we have good chemistry musically.

Any contemporary musicians you’d like to collaborate with?

I would love to work with Spencer Seim, who played guitar in Hella and is active in a group called Spock. He’s just my favorite guitar player. I love everything that he does.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Looking down at my impromptu meal] I’m just eating this gross chicken because it’s warm and gives me heat on my hand. This biscuit tastes like car exhaust.

It looks great.

If you could sit at a table and eat bad friend chicken with someone who you’ve really drawn inspiration from, who would that person be?

Does it have to be a musician? E.E.Cummings was a big part of me discovering the written word, that led me to becoming a creative writer.

What feeds your writing when you develop song lyrics?

I tend to write about the human condition. I think the way we perceive the world through emotions is the most important part of how we experience the outside world. I want for people to get out of shaming others for hypersensitivity. I really respect people who are honest about their emotions. The way we relate to ourselves and other people is so much based on knowing that you’re going to die, the limits of being a person and stuck inside of this body.

What has sensitivity given you, and what has it taken from you?

Oh, it just takes everything away. Really. It makes everything hard. It’s given me a sense of purpose, I guess, which is shitty. To be overly analytical of everything that happens is something that I do to myself. I sort of like it though. I like to make things difficult for myself and see if art comes out of it. I’ve come to terms with sacrificing myself for art.

Do you think it’s your hardwiring or learnt behavior?

I think it’s just the way I am.

Look at your white sneakers!

They’re brand new. I thought I might be able to have fun if I bought white sneakers.

You appeared to be having fun at your backyard set earlier today in the Starland District. You move so nicely while you were performing. You push up on one toe and then lean into your strumming and it’s agreeable to watch.

Sometimes I’ll get really nervous and go through the first ten minutes of a gig without moving at all, and then I’m like, “Just tap your foot! Just bend your knee a little bit,” and then it works itself out.

What’s your relationship with your instrument like?

It’s one of the most important relationships in my life. We don’t sleep together but we’re very close. I got a headphone amp recently that only has enough wattage to send an output to headphones so you can play electric guitar in the back seat and no one else can hear you. It’s been a lifesaver on this tour… you can only sit in a back seat of a car feeling car sick for so long before you’re destroyed.

Do you have any rituals before gigging?

Just getting time alone, writing a set list. I love handwriting. It’s not carefully written every time but the hardest thing to do before a show is break away from a conversation you don’t totally want to be having. I have a hard time talking to people when I know we’re going on in five minutes. Sometimes it just means hiding in the bathroom for a bit.

What’s your musical map look like?

It’s self indulgent. One side is ego and the other side 9s doubt. You could see it as a Venn diagram.

Do you live in the middle of it where the two circles overlap?

No, I live on both sides, I go back and forth.

Who even lives in the middle? Life coaches?

Probably so.

2016 finds us toggling between the ego stroke and the ego…

Death. Everything is very personal in sort of a shitty way.

What do you do about that?

Exactly what I usually do.

Do you keep a finger on its pulse?

I feel that I’m very much out of the know. To an unfortunate extent at times. I’m sometimes too wrapped up in what I’m doing to understand what else is going on out there.

As for the great trope of musical womanhood, any closing words for female artists?

As far as all that, all I have to advise is to not let it affect you. People really have an issue with that and sometimes when they’re trying to be empowering they sort of victimize them saying things like “Oh, she really shreds!” in surprise, as if being a woman in the first place is this huge hinderance. It’ll do everyone a lot of good to not talk about gender in music so much. Women can play guitar just as well as men can. Just getting out of those ideas has been really important for me – not thinking of myself as a woman in music, but just thinking of myself as a musical person.

[fusion_soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: George Martin, Tiny Desk, & Iggy Pop


  • George Martin Dies

    Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: George Martin, famed Beatles producer, has died at age 90. Martin spent seven years working with the Fab Four, helping them arrange and shape their sound. His closeness with the band earned him the nickname “the fifth Beatle,” though he also worked with other artists such as Peter Sellers, Shirley Bassey, America, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck and Celine Dion. Many of the Beatles songs wouldn’t be the same without him- For example, check out “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a track on which Martin humored the band’s request for backward tape loops:

  • Watch Mothers “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” Video

    Feeling sad yet? Just wait until you learn the story behind the Mothers track “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t.” Singer  Kristine Leschper wrote the song about her missing cat. Footage of her cat is briefly featured in the video, and she describes it as “the only remaining video I have of my best friend, who was so often the only thing keeping me rooted in reality, feeding me optimism, helping me survive.” If you’ve ever had a lost cat, you’ll understand.

  • NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest Winner Announced

    This year’s winner of the Tiny Desk Contest is Gaelynn Lea, from Duluth, Minnesota. Lea sings and plays the fiddle, though her brittle bone disease requires her to play a very small violin which she holds upright, like a double bass. Her song, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun,” has a haunting, heartbreaking melody that remains in your head long after the song ends, yet still manages to convey a sense of hope. Check out her winning performance:

  • Stream Post Pop Depression, The New Iggy Pop + Josh Homme Collaboration

    Iggy Pop has described the album as a sort of sequel to Lust For Life, on which he collaborated with David Bowie. He recorded Post Pop Depression the Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, in some secluded desert location, as is Homme’s style (that information alone means it’s going to be pretty awesome).  You can stream the nine tracks on NPR, here