Brainiac’s John Schmersal to perform first solo show Tuesday in downtown Dayton

Credit: Joseph Buscarello

Credit: Joseph Buscarello

There isn’t much John Schmersal hasn’t done in music. The Miami Valley native has traveled the world as a member of Brainiac and as tour bassist for Caribou. He has fronted the bands Enon, Crooks on Tapes and the Vertical Scratchers but surprisingly he’s never done a solo set. That changes on Tuesday, May 30 when he performs at Blind Bob’s in Dayton.

“Doing this show was me kind of seizing the day,” Schmersal said by phone from his home in the California desert. “I’ve been thinking about this more and more because I’ve never done a solo show. I’ve never done a show that’s voice-and-guitar oriented. It was kind of like a challenge to myself. I also hadn’t played in Dayton since my band Vertical Scratchers. People had been asking forever if Enon was ever going to do a show.”

Schmersal won’t be solo all night. He’ll be joined on several songs by cellist and singer Kate Wakefield of Cincinnati band Lung. The stripped-down set will draw from his various Schmersal projects, including the 1999 solo release, “Forget Everything,” credited to John Stuart Mill.

“I decided to put together a show that’s a hodgepodge of songs I’ve written over time,” he said. “Some of them are better on the record and don’t necessarily work live. I made a list and started going through them and playing them to see how they felt. Then I narrowed it down to what I put in the set. There’s some Enon songs and some Vertical Scratchers songs so it’s a mixture of things people know and some maybe other people that paid more attention will know. I’ll have a few songs that will be new to everybody and a couple of covers.”



“There’s more of an audience for something like this in Dayton,” Schmersal continued. “I felt like I could do a show on a Tuesday, and it would be cool. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again, but it’ll be fun to dust off some of these songs and talk about them a little bit.”

A human reunion

It will also be an opportunity for Schmersal to share the bill with friends. Opening act Halicon is the solo electronic project of Tim Krug of local band Oh Condor. Second on the bill is Louisville-based Tender Mercy, solo act of former Daytonian Mark Kramer.

“I’ve known those guys for years,” Schmersal said. “When Brainiac was still going, I had a few different little side projects. I had a band called the Heart Attack with Jeremy (Frederick), kind of an early prototype of Let’s Crash. I had another band for a minute with Jason Baker and Mark Kramer. It’s funny because all three of us, Mark, me and Tim, have all been in bands with Jeremy. That’s a special fun connection.”

For the past few years, Krug has been playing with the reformed Brainiac, including the group’s recent overseas dates. He is excited to share the stage with his buddies for his first Halicon show in town since last summer.

“This show was basically John’s idea,” Krug said. “He never really played any solo shows, so it’s cool he wanted to do one. I’ve always been a big fan of all of his stuff so I can’t wait to hear some of the songs I haven’t seen live for a long time and some songs I’ve never seen live ever.



Exploring options

For Schmersal, it will be a quick trip to Dayton. He’ll visit with family and friends, play a solo show and do a quick rehearsal with Brainiac before heading to Chicago for shows on June 1 and 2. After that it’s more dates with Caribou, including European festival slots in July and August.

“I’m working on a Caribou set, a Brainiac set and all these songs I wrote,” Schmersal said. “All of that stuff is coursing through my hands on guitar, bass and voice and stuff. It’s a good exercise. I’m trying to figure out what the next thing is for me. The solo show is about paying attention and seizing little opportunities to see people. You quickly forget what it felt like not seeing people during the pandemic. Now, I’m trying to be more conscious of taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or


Who: John Schmersal, Tender Mercy and Halicon

Where: Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St., Dayton

When: Tuesday, May 30 at 7 p.m.

Cost: $15

More info: 937-938-6405 or

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