Get in the Swing
The initial days of the 109th year of the WESTERN & SOUTHERN FINANCIAL GROUP MASTERS event featured highly engaging qualifying matches and the fiery practice sessions of early arrivals Marcos Baghdatis and Juan Carlos Ferrerro. Tennis fans wandered the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason and bumped into players making their way to practice sessions, scheduled appearances or their own rounds of opponent scouting with coaches.
The intimate setting created the perfect mix of Midwestern hospitality and an international air that's much more than a simple marriage of convenience. In the early stages, the focus was on parents sharing their love of the game with children, whether the young ones are budding competitors or informed spectators. Included among the immediate family were the event volunteers, some with more than 20 years logged in.
The tone changes now, of course, as the this Masters event transforms into a tournament that's part of both the U.S. Open Series and the ATP Masters Series. With that distinction comes a rise in the level of appreciation from the fans as well as the level of play on the courts.
And then the questions begin to mount, such as how does a 140-mile-per-hour serve register from courtside? What does the unflappable grace of Roger Federer (pictured) and the ferocious power of Rafael Nadal look like in person? The answers await, along with a swooning, swirling mix of loyal tennis enthusiasts and curious novices hoping to catch a glimpse of current tour stars like two-time champion Andy Roddick and the sensational Baghdatis, who exited the practice court during the this past weekend's qualifier rounds to throngs of youngsters looking like a Rock star in the making.
From this point on, the tournament becomes a true tune-up for the U.S. Open, the season's final Grand Slam event and the latest marker in Federer's historic run toward the distinction of being "The Greatest of All Time." Some of us will be able to tell stories of how, in our own backyard, we glimpsed the legend in the making.
Tournament play continues daily through Sunday. $26-$38 for single sessions (Sunday's final is sold out). 513-651-0303. (See Sports.) -- tt stern-enzi
Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University, isn't quite the most conducive environment for budding young bands that want to play original music. The clubs and bars tend to cater to those who just want to hear mindless Pop music when out on the town, and when bands do play they're more often than not playing the same 10 covers of their favorite Dave Matthews songs. That being said, it's all the more impressive when something original is born in the college town. The Pop Punk outfit LOOK AFRAID arose primarily from the ashes of the surprisingly popular psuedo-Ska band Sofapunch. While the latter bounced and grooved with a Chicago-meets-Reel Big Fish vibe, the former constructs a throbbing, thrashing, uptempo sound in the vein of Coheed and Cambria. When Look Afraid's two lead members, Mat Franklin and Alex Nauth, started piecing together an Oxford dream team of Punk musicians after Sofapunch disbanded, they brought in a drummer from the student-run radio station, a bassist from another short-lived yet popular band and a guitarist from the successful local group The Culling Song. The band is building momentum from the recognition of its members' past projects and the accessible and danceable sound they are now creating. Look Afraid is doing some modest summer touring to promote its first EP before the reality of still being in college puts a slight damper on its outside-of-Oxford/Greater Cincy reach
THURSDAY 16 - SATURDAY 18
You've seen Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance on the tube, now you can catch the real thing live at this weekend's 10TH ANNUAL CINCINNATI DANCESPORT COMPETITION at the Sheraton Cincinnati Airport Hotel in Hebron. Ranging in age groups from pre-teen to seniors, accomplished professional and amateur competitors come from far and wide -- and some are locals -- to vie for titles, awards, cash prizes and, of course, the glory of winning. The diverse displays of terpsichorean talent range in styles from Cha Cha, Mambo, Samba, Hustle and Swing to Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Waltz, among other American and International category variants. Expect to witness slightly more "pure" ballroom forms and more rigorous rules than what you see on TV, but these events are guaranteed to be glitz- and glamour-laden, complete with flashy costumes, dramatic make-up and -- most important -- knock-out moves. All dance events are open to the public. For a full schedule and ticket information, visit www.cincinnatidancesport.com. 513-281-5500. (See Events or Onstage.) -- JULIE MULLINS
Many people think of landscape paintings when they think of art. Just as many people think of starving artists' garage sale art when thinking about landscapes. Curator Hollis Hammonds has taken a new view of an old genre with the exhibition opening tonight: New-Scapes: Contemporary Visions of Landscape at the Art Academy of Cincinnati's RUTHE G. PEARLMAN GALLERY. The four artists selected for the show -- Cynthia Harper, Michael Herouz, Donald Kelly and Armin Müsham -- blast away notions of unmolested nature and focus their eyes on the artificiality of the modern world. These artists explore sundry materials (from found objects and dirt to the more traditional medium of oil painting) to further the "landscape genre." Expect to be confronted with our own "Midwestern ironies of nature" in the work here. Expect to acknowledge that a park, though green, is hardly spontaneous terrain. 9 a.m.9 p.m. Friday. 513-562-6262. (See Art.) -- LAURA JAMES
WEIRD AL YANKOVIC didn't invent the song parody, but he is clearly the genre's reigning master. Last year, after more than 25 years of making records, he posted his highest appearance on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 singles chart, taking "White & Nerdy," a send up of Chamillionaire's "Ridin," to the No. 9 spot. "It's pretty rare when an artist will turn me down," Al explains. " 'You're Pitiful' was originally going to be the lead single for Straight Outta Lynwood. This is before I'd come up with 'White and Nerdy.' Then we get a call from Atlantic Records saying, 'We will not allow you to release this parody.' " Yankovic doesn't necessarily need permission to parody songs, but getting the approval means he gets a partial royalty based on the new lyrics. The original writers also increase their profit margin if the parody does well. "You're Pitiful" was left off the album but wound up being a free download on Al's Web site (www.weirdal.com). Yankovic performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Timberwolf Amphitheatre at Kings Island. $24.95-$44.95. 513-562-4949. (See Onstage.) -- P.F. WILSON
The late Charley Harper and his wife Edie Harper enjoyed many celebrations this last year of his life -- both artists have had exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Center as well as the Lloyd Library. The famous designer TODD OLDHAM has just published a book of Charley's work. Now the CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM (CAM) ends the wonderful year with the exhibition Minimal Realism: Charley and Edie Harper, 1940-1960. The show opens to the public Saturday and features 40 works of art. The couple was devoted to each other throughout their careers, and even though each has a distinct style, evidence of their life together reverberates throughout the CAM show. Charley and Edie lived and studied together, both taking graphic design to new places in an era that celebrated it as "fine art" for the first time in history. By focusing on a small number of works from a two-decade time span, Minimal Realism proves once and for all the importance of these two great Cincinnati artists. Oldham will sign his book at noon at Joseph-Beth Booksellers and 3 p.m. at CAM. 513-721-ARTS. (See Art.) -- LAURA JAMES
Those of you who are ardent watchers of the night sky know how great the summer is for doing just that. If not, the CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY is giving you a chance to see what all the fuss is about the beauty of the heavens with its Picnic Under the Stars night on Saturday. Bring some food, friends, family and your eyes to the perfect place for a starlit picnic on the Observatory grounds located on the top of Mount Lookout. There will be safe solar viewing, tours of the Observatory's historic buildings and a guided star gaze after dark. Dissatisfied with the play of the Reds? No good movies you want to see? Enjoy nature's consistently gratifying programming, a clear view of the rest of the universe, always in high-definition. The picnic runs 6-9 p.m. Reservations are required, and a donation is requested from each party. (See Events.) -- KEVIN MICHELL
It's not often that a genuine Broadway legend performs in Cincinnati. The touring shows at the Aronoff often feature performers who resemble an actor or actress who originated a Broadway role, but it's rare to see a star who's still in his or her prime, an "above-the-marquee" performer. It will happen Saturday when BERNADETTE PETERS performs a benefit concert at the Aronoff Center. In addition to being a Broadway singer almost without equal, Peters is a great humanitarian who regularly performs on behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her Cincinnati concert will also generate support for her local presenter, Caracole, an organization that supports people in Greater Cincinnati afflicted with AIDS. Peters has been nominated for seven Tony Awards and created roles in works by a diverse array of Broadway composers. Twice she's won the Tony for best actress in a musical -- for Lloyd Webber's Song & Dance and as Annie Oakley in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun. If you need further proof of Peters' status, pay heed to Sony Classics, which recently issued a set of four recordings celebrating "Legends of Broadway." Recordings aside, however, hearing Peters in concert is an extraordinary opportunity. She's a marvelous vocalist in a live setting, and her performance in Cincinnati -- the first time she's done a solo concert here -- will be an evening fans will remember for a long time. 513-621-2787. (See Events.) -- RICK PENDER
Just when it seemed like all American vocal talent could be summed up with an elimination show of has-been panel judges with awful British accents, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) proves there's hope for vocal music redemption. For a refreshing alternative to the popped-out contestants of American Idol, CCM presents the 11th annual GRANDIN FESTIVAL. This celebration of the beauty of the human voice convenes vocal and instrumental students together under the instruction of renowned guest artists and CCM's distinguished faculty. Beginning Monday, the festival will offer a series of free public concerts of vocal chamber music showcasing the talent and rehearsal of the students. Each year 70-80 student singers and instrumentalists have participated in the festival. More than 70 concerts and 230 works of all musical periods and styles have been performed since the festival began 11 years ago. The 2007 festival will feature a range of works by composers from the 19th century to the present as well as a number of acclaimed guest artists, including composer Thomas Pasatieri and pianist Warren Jones (pictured). For a schedule of the free public concerts, visit www.grandinfestival.com. (See Onstage.) -- ELIZABETH MILLER