CINCINNATI — After months of construction and some controversy, 3CDC last Sunday unveiled the rejuvenated Washington Park in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district. The renovation includes a new dancing fountain, underground parking garage, children’s play area and, perhaps most importantly for the Midwest music scene, a brand new stage. To christen it, one of Cincinnati’s most well-known musical exports (and neighborhood namesake), Over the Rhine, performed to a packed-in crowd numbering in the thousands.
“It was a no-brainer to play [here],” siren Karin Bergquist advised. ”Please enjoy the park. It’s for you.”
While their career was still somewhat nascent, Bergquist and her songwriting partner (now husband), Linford Detweiler, lived on Main Street and they took the name of the neighborhood for their project.
“We wanted our songs to be beautiful and ragged, like this neighborhood, so that’s why we chose ‘Over the Rhine,’ and we still wear that name very proudly,” she said. ”Wherever we go, in any part of the country, or whatever country we travel to, it means a lot to us. And that’s why we’ve kept the name. So thank you for having us back here.”
Local bluegrassers / jovial populists Jake Speed and the Freddies opened the show with a Cincinnati-style 5-way of special guests: Dan Dorff (Stomp, Daniel Martin Moore collaborator) played washboard for “Leaving Cincinnati,” former Cincinnati City Councilman / Over-the-Rhine denizen Jim Tarbell wailed harmonica on “Tennessee Waltz,” and WNKU’s Katie Laur picked the guitar and sang on “Deep Elem Blues,” before Bergquist and Detweiler sat in with the Freddies on their newest song, “Washington Park Waltz.”
Last weekend’s show served not only as a homecoming, but a reunion — original Over the Rhine guitarist Ric Hordinski joined the frontcouple for for the entire set, along with Nashville drummer Tony Perkinson and Band of Joy bassist Byron House.
“The fellow anchoring it all over here, my better half, is Linford Detweiler,” Bergquist teased during band introductions, “and he’s the reason we’re all here. I wake up every morning and say, ‘Honey, it’s all your fault.’”
Playing in the shadow of Music Hall at sunset, Detweiler waxed nostalgic about Over the Rhine’s long career.
“We’ve been writing songs together for over twenty years now,” he reminisced. ”In 1995, about six or seven years into our music career, we’d been on a major label, IRS Records, for several records, and that kind of went away. We were seriously thinking about packing it in at that point, but we recorded some songs over on Main Street, some demos that we were thinking we’d re-record in a real studio at some point, and we put a record out for the fun of it — called it Good Dog, Bad Dog.”
He paused while the audience knowingly applauded.
“I don’t know, many of you I guess found that record, and gave it life, kind of put some gas back in our tank. Thank you very much.”
He smiled. OTR closed with two cuts from that album: ”All I Need Is Everything,” and “Latter Days.” They would return for a two-song encore — and a well-deserved bow.
(PHOTOS: Jonathan Goolsby)