I've seen The Lion King five times, on Broadway and on tour. I wrote about it in a feature this week, describing how a successful but not terribly
profound animated Disney feature became a stage musical that's a
worldwide phenomenon. A touring production is at the Aronoff through April 26;
it's the third time the show has landed in Cincinnati.
evaluate the performers — who are highly talented and extremely polished
in their presentation of the show — I decided to pay attention to the
visuals this time around. It was worth it. The Lion King has the
most inspiring opening of any show I've seen: A call and response
between Rafiki, a nervous mandrill and two others brings together a
clutch of African animals to Pride Rock where a regal pair of lions,
King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi are presenting their new cub. The animals
enter the theater from all directions — from the stage wings and down
the Aronoff's aisles, enabling the audience to see the actors in their
puppet gear up close as they sing "The Circle of Life." It's a great way
to begin the show's magic.
But it's only the start: There is color and pageantry to burn in this story — from a colony of loony hyenas to a fatal stampede of antelopes. The second act opens with the chorus dressed in colorful clothes with ornate puppet birds and kites sing "One on One." I was reminded of the wonderful South African choral groups that inspired Cincinnati audiences during the World Choir games in 2012 — passionate harmonizing and heart-thumping rhythms. From start to finish, The Lion King is a remarkable experience. If you've seen it once, it's worth going again to appreciate new dimensions of this gorgeous production. Tickets: 513-621-2781.
Hey all. I’m hyped for the season’s first thunderstorm, which is officially rolling in as I type this. As far as I’m concerned, it’s finally spring. On to the news.
Residents displaced by the King Towers fire in Madisonville last Thursday will be able to stay in their extended stay hotel in Blue Ash for another two weeks, but after that their fate is uncertain. The 20-plus residents can’t move back into the building until it is investigated and cleaned, a process that could take months. Many have lived in the building for a long time and don’t have access to cars to get around. The fire injured several and killed firefighter Daryl Gordon, whose funeral drew thousands from across the country yesterday to downtown Cincinnati.
• A proposal by Cincinnati developer North Pointe Group in Over-the-Rhine would build 21 single-family homes on some city-owned vacant lots on Main Street north of Liberty Street. It would also redevelop a vacant building there into eight so-called “workforce apartments.” North Pointe says the houses will sell for around $400,000 to $600,000 each. The apartments will all be approximately 630 square feet and cost about $800-$950. The plan has drawn some controversy, which we explore in our news feature this week. North Pointe says it will need to tear down popular basketball courts on the land. After some residents complained, the developer agreed to keep two of the six hoops standing. But some are still skeptical of the proposal, saying it could change the character of the neighborhood.
• Cincinnati-based news giant E.W. Scripps Co. is officially out of the newspaper business for the first time in its 135 year history as of Wednesday. In a merger with Journal Communications, based in Milwaukee, Scripps has traded off its remaining newspapers for 12 TV stations and 34 radio stations across the country. The company has said it’s looking to expand its presence in TV and to own radio stations in the markets where it also broadcasts TV news. That could mean Scripps could eventually acquire radio stations here in Cincinnati.
• Suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter would like the Ohio Supreme Court to remove her ongoing felony trial from the county’s court system. Hunter is being retried on a felony count of misusing a court credit card after a technicality kept a jury from considering evidence for that charge when Hunter was tried late last year. A jury hung on eight of nine felony counts in that trial, convicting her of one count related to information she allegedly gave her brother, a county court employee, about an inmate.
Hunter and her attorney, Clyde Bennett II, say Hunter can’t get a fair trial in the county thanks to acrimony between her and many of the judges here. Bennett says prior decisions by Hamilton County Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, who is currently presiding over the case, were used as evidence in Hunter’s earlier trial, causing a conflict of interest. Judge Norbert Nadel presided over Hunter’s original trial, but he retired earlier this year and Dinkelacker was elected to replace him. Dinkelacker previously presided over an appeals court where he made the rulings in question about Hunter’s case.
• Another local connection to the weed-legalization efforts led by ResponsibleOhio: Cincinnati-based developer David Bastos is an investor in the ballot initiative, which aims to legalize the sale of marijuana and restrict commercial growth to 10 marijuana farms around the state. Bastos is a partner in Bridge Property LLC, which would establish one of those farms in Lucas County. ResponsibleOhio needs to collect 300,000 signatures by this summer in order to get their amendment to Ohio’s constitution on the November ballot. Should it pass, Ohioans over the age of 21 would be allowed to buy marijuana, apply for a marijuana vendor’s license (similar to a liquor license) and grow small amounts of the drug for personal use, a late concession to opponents of the measure’s limit on commercial growth.
• The Cincinnati Reds are on track to break their season ticket sales records, thanks in part to the MLB All-Star Game coming to the city July 14. The Reds’ previous record at Great American Ballpark is 15,648. Last year they sold about 14,500 and they’re on pace to reach more than 16,000 sales this year. There’s a clear incentive for baseball nuts to make the big commitment: Season ticket holders are automatically offered the opportunity to purchase All-Star Game tickets, which are a hot item. Both half-season (40 games) and full-season (80 games) ticket holders get a crack at the All-Star Game tickets.
• The 2016 Senate race in Ohio is heating up. Republican Senator Rob Portman, nearing the end of his first term in the Senate, will have to fight off either Gov. Ted Strickland or Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, both Democrats, in that contest. But he’ll have a lot of ammunition. Portman reported he’s raised $2.75 million in the last 90 days for his campaign. Portman has steeled himself for a primary challenge from the right — he angered some conservatives with his pro-marriage equality stance after his son came out as gay — but so far, no challenger has materialized and Portman has netted big cash and big endorsements. Portman could face a big challenge from Strickland, who is Ohio’s former governor and who has been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton. All this alignment of cash and big-name endorsements shows how crucial Ohio will be to the 2016 election, when the presidency and control of the Senate will both be on the line.
That’s it for me. Tweet at me, comment or email me with your news tips.
Hello Cincy. Let’s get straight to the news.
The weather is beautiful and perfect for honoring a hero, even if the occasion is incredibly sad. Today is the funeral for firefighter Daryl Gordon, who died last week after falling down an elevator shaft while fighting a fire at an apartment building in Madisonville. Large crowds of fire officials and civilians gathered downtown this morning to pay their respects to Gordon, whose funeral service began at 10 a.m. at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral on West Eighth Street. Support has come from across the state and, really, from across the world. Firefighters from Columbus (which is sending nearly 200), Anderson Township, Covington, Deerfield Township, Delhi Township, Springfield Township and Sycamore Township will be manning Cincinnati’s fire stations so firefighters here can attend the ceremony. Firefighters from as far away as London and Montreal have traveled here to attend the service. Flags are flying at half-mast across the state in Gordon’s honor on the order of Gov. John Kasich. Gordon was a 26-year veteran of Cincinnati’s Fire Department.
• So I’m getting a serious aversion to the word “streetcar.” Not because I’m opposed to the controversial transit project, necessarily (though my personal feelings about it are admittedly complicated) but because it’s becoming Exhibit A when it comes to how our city struggles ludicrously with big decisions. Yesterday’s Cincinnati City Council Transportation Committee meeting is a good, or really, bad, example of this.
The two-and-a-half-hour meeting was the stuff of migraine sufferers’ nightmares, with back and forth arguments about whether or not to ask SORTA to use union employees to staff the streetcar (more on this in our print edition), a motion demanding that SORTA hand over bids it has received from companies interested in operating the streetcar, whether or not to study possible ways to pay for the project’s next phase, whether or not cost estimates for moving utilities for the project’s next potential phase were hidden from council for a year and more.
Having a number of tough decisions to make in a meeting is one thing. Not making any of them is another all together. The committee made no progress on any of those questions and has tabled a number of the motions it discussed until later this month. Awesome. When I was out of town, I watched the initial drama unfold over the streetcar project with a mix of jealousy that I didn’t get to cover it and gratefulness that I didn’t have to. Now I’m just tired of hearing about it. Like it or hate it, the tracks are in the ground. Stop politicking, both sides, and just get it done already.
• Elsewhere, part of council did decide one thing yesterday: The Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee would like to see Pete Rose reinstated into Major League Baseball so he can be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. The league’s new commissioner Rob Manfred has signaled that he’s willing to talk with Rose about reinstatement, though he’s not making any promises. Council made a similar resolution nearly two decades ago, but members now see a new opportunity for Rose in Manfred’s statements. While it was passing a resolution about baseball, the committee also asked MLB to recognize black baseball players from the Negro League in the days before baseball was integrated, allowing them to be eligible for the Hall of Fame as well.
• Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Gov. Mike Pence March 26, has been making scorching national headlines because it seems to allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community. Could a similar bill come to Ohio? It doesn’t seem likely. Interestingly, Ohio lawmakers tried briefly to pass a similar law last year. The bill was killed early over concerns that it would allow discrimination, and lawmakers say they won’t be trying to pass similar legislation anytime soon.
But Gov. John Kasich has indicated in recent statements that he’s interested in something of a compromise bill — one that offers language both guaranteeing protection of religious freedom and prohibiting discrimination against gays. Ohio does not currently have a law prohibiting hiring or housing discrimination against LGBT people. Meanwhile, following the intense criticism Indiana has received, Gov. Pence has walked back a bit on the law and is now calling on the Indiana State House to clarify it with language making it clear businesses are not allowed to discriminate against gays in the name of religious freedom.
• Meanwhile, Arkansas has also jumped into the “discrimination in the name of religious freedom game,” passing its own RFRA law yesterday. That’s drawn a sharp rebuke from an unexpected source — corporations in the state. Walmart has asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill, and Hutchinson has in turn asked lawmakers to make changes to it. Congress passed a federal RFRA law in 1993, and now 21 states now have some form of RFRA law. Importantly, these vary in whether they stipulate that businesses are included in the protection of religious freedoms and whether they can use the law as a defense in lawsuit proceedings. Texas, Indiana and Arkansas are among the few states with this language in their laws. Many legal experts believe these bills are popping up lately in response to the continued march of pro-marriage equality rulings in federal courts as well as the legalization of gay marriage in many states. Thirty-seven states now allow gay marriage. Ohio is arguing before the Supreme Court next month in defense of its 2004 gay marriage ban.
• Finally, here’s a crazy-alarming but really well-executed infographic showing the rise of incarceration rates, by state, throughout the United States from 1978 to 2012. Prepare to be highly depressed. Ohio is well up there in terms of prison population percentage, with 440 inmates per 100,000 people in the state. That’s not as high as some states — Louisiana has almost 900 per 100,000. Still. Yikes. The rise comes from a number of factors, including America’s war on drugs, the advent of the private for-profit prison and other factors. Great.
I spent months conjuring a path towards a holiday in the sun. The clutching grasp of the highly irregular Midwest winter had me experiencing the full manifestation of the seasonal doldrums. A cross-country road trip turned out to be my conduit towards metaphorical enlightenment. I found solace in a distant two-day music festival nested in Santa Ana, Calif. But in fear of sounding like a silver-tongued bastard, lets talk turkey.
This past weekend’s Burgerama was a compact, genre-bending two-day music festival with three separate stages (indoor and outdoor). Burger Records presented a lineup of 80-plus bands that included SoCal favorites Bleached, Ty Segall and FIDLAR but also offered Psych Rock pioneer Roky Erikson, Alternative legends Weezer and the Hip Hop collective Bone Thugs N Harmony.
While in its fourth year of existence, Burgerama has a well-defined identity. Festival-goers all looked extremely similar as a parallel style and angst ran rampant at The Observatory venue in Santa Ana. Trendy weekend bohemians with eccentric personalities donning ripped denim were not in short supply. The only true individual was the lonesome dad with a disapproving glare and earplugs.
Burgerama definitely has a common, overwhelming and obvious demographic. A sea of teenagers flooded the venue at the all-ages, weekend festival. My only safe haven from the painful, reminiscent sights of my adolescence was the beer garden, or beer prison (as I affectionately coined it), since you couldn’t freely roam the venue with your $6 beer. But it was the least populated area offering plenty of shade and a great view of the stage. Who would’ve thunk?
Festivals have a stigma of being over-priced and overrated but Burgerama did music fans a solid because for $90 you got two days of music and a better way to spend the weekend than binge watching Netflix and adding on to your to-do list.
Most of the bands I was looking forward to seeing were scheduled later in the evening, so I had time to check out the handful of bands I was unfamiliar with before Burgerama. I was definitely impressed with my results of aimlessly wandering from stage to stage finding new artists to add to my music collection. It was hard to pick a favorite performance, but here are a few that stood out that I highly recommend checking out if you haven’t already:
This all-female quartet is based out of Seattle. La Luz has an intrinsically noticeable spacey 1950s Surf Rock, Doo Wop influence packed with a healthy amount of reverb, slight pressure on the tremolo bar and a well-mannered slice of four-part vocal harmony. The addition of extremely cohesive instrumentation makes this group captivating. Four extremely talented, women playing beautiful music.
When you put a jangly guitar above a fat drum beat with a driving fuzz bass tone, you get the perfect recipe for a wholehearted dance party. Broncho is quirky, fun and its songs are extremely catchy. The Oklahoma based trio was definitely my favorite band of day one. With underlying traces of Punk and timely use of non-lexical melodies, the pop-minded Broncho put on a great set at Burgerama. Definitely looking forward to catching them at Louisvill’es Forecastle Festival in July. (Check out a Q&A with the band’s Ryan Lindsey below.)
FIDLAR, which stands for “Fuck it Dog, Life’s a Risk,” is an L.A. Punk band that was passionately received by a slightly aggressive crowd eager to heed the advice of the above acronym. Before the show started, I saw additional security march towards the front of the stage in preparation for the fallout. Even the side stage, which tends to be a refuge from the pit area, was filled with mini-mosh pits. Seeing the band at Burgerama made me excited to see them perform at a smaller venue. FIDLAR will be at Thompson House in Newport on May 16. I love Rhinegeist as much as the next guy, but I’ll be sticking to cheap beer that night.
Jacco Gardner, a Dutch multi-instrumentalist, was a breath of fresh air from the thematic distortion that could be quickly located throughout the venue. His band was extremely cohesive, offering evident attention to 1960s psychedelia. The intricate and diverse melodies offered comfort to weary eardrums. Gardner is genuinely a great songwriter.
Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel
Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel was one of the only groups I looked up prior to Burgerama. The band name alone had me interested. This L.A. rooted psychedelic, keyboard-based four piece put on a phenomenal show despite having to play a shorter set due to a bass amp that blew out. Strictly because of instrumentation, this band will be likened to The Doors but this band has a definite sound of their own. The group members mentioned they are working on a new album currently, and I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from them.
Twin Peaks is a Chicago based band that I was really looking forward to seeing after hearing their new album, Wild Onion. The energy these guys exerted left me both inspired and exhausted. Their energy transferred to the fans and the photographers in the pit were asked to leave before the agreed time because the crowd was getting too rowdy. Twin Peaks performed a wildly entertaining set; definitely glad I got to watch them.
Stellar local singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell has revealed one of his first new songs since the release of last year’s magnificent album OH/KY in the form of a new music video shot by famed local photographer Michael Wilson. Wilson — who has done promo shots and album covers for artists ranging from Over the Rhine and Joshua Redman to Lyle Lovett and The Replacements — filmed the clip in a Boone County, Ky., horse barn in mid-March, using his “one-shot” (meaning no edits) technique, previously seen in clips from The Emery Sessions a few years back and more recently seen in a pair of clips for local Country band Bulletville's new album.
Pinnell, whose sound has shifted towards a more traditional Country vibe since his days with local bands like The Light Wires and The Great Depression, performs in the clip for the new “Feel This Right” backed by his pals, the Honky Tonk crew The 55s, whose Cameron Cochran produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the video.
"When I walked into the barn and shouted, and listened to the way the sound resonated off the dirt floor and the old wooden siding, I had a feeling something amazing was going to be captured,” Cochran says. “The light was perfect, the day was perfect, the band was in good spirits, the song was great, we had someone with an amazing eye looking through a camera — all we had to do was get out of the way of what was about to happen, and that was exactly what we did."
Good morning Cincy! It’s finally getting to be bike commuting weather again, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve missed showing up to work all sweaty and out of breath with terrible helmet hair, and I’m sure my coworkers have missed it as well. Anyway, enough about my transportation habits, which I seem to talk about a lot in the morning news blog. Let’s get on to the news.
Sweet. More streetcar politics ahead. Moving utility lines to make way for a streetcar extension will be twice as costly as it was for the track currently being laid between Over-the-Rhine and downtown, according to an estimate performed last year by Duke Energy. Duke says the task, which is necessary before tracks are put down, could cost up to $38 million. Boosters want to get started on the next step for the streetcar, which would extend it near the University of Cincinnati and several of the city’s hospitals uptown. Councilman Chris Seelbach last week introduced an ordinance asking the city to begin looking at plans for the extension. But Mayor John Cranley, an ardent opponent of the project, has dismissed calls for the next step of streetcar as “silly.” Those pushing the city to begin planning for the uptown leg of the streetcar say if plans aren’t in place, the city could lose out on millions in federal funds that could help pay for next steps.
• More than 20 residents at the King Towers apartments in Madisonville are wondering where they’ll be staying following the tragic fire that swept through the building last week. That fire claimed the life of Cincinnati Firefighter Daryl Gordon. Representatives for The Community Builders, the building’s owners, on Sunday told residents they needed to be out of their temporary hotel rooms by 11 a.m. Monday morning. That caused an outcry from the residents and others, including members of Madisonville Community Council. Boston-based The Community Builders has since extended residents’ hotel stays until Wednesday and has promised to help find a solution for temporary housing for the residents while the building undergoes clean up and investigation, a process that could take months.
• Ready to start paying for Union Terminal? The county’s sales tax boost kicks in Wednesday after voters approved it in November. You’ll pay an extra .25 cents on the dollar so the county can pay for much-needed renovations to one of Cincinnati’s most iconic landmarks. The rate is going from 6.75 percent to 7 percent.
• A Greater Cincinnati area school district is boosting anti-drug messages to its students in anticipation of a potential marijuana farm nearby. Monroe Schools says a marijuana farm that would be established should legalization group ResponsibleOhio get its way is unwelcome in the city and that it sends messages to students that cancel out years of anti-drug efforts. One of the group’s 10 proposed grow sites would be in Middletown, less than two miles from Monroe’s K-12 public school. In response, the school district, some community leaders and law enforcement officials have teamed up to redouble anti-drug messages to teens, because telling a teenager not to do something is obviously the best way to make it seem uncool and unappealing. Meanwhile, ResponsibleOhio has responded by pointing out their legalization effort is only for those 21 and over. They also claim that the drug is already readily available to many on the black market and that their proposal would limit or eliminate that market.
• Ohio prison officials want to get inmates job interviews. Ohio Prison Director Gary Mohr has discussed efforts to recruit businesses who are willing to employ former inmates and has proposed setting up some inmates with job interviews upon their release. The program aims to cut recidivism among inmates and keep the number of repeat offenders in Ohio’s prisons to a minimum. Studies suggest those who find jobs after being released from prison have a much lower rate of additional criminal activity.
• In national news, here’s an alarming number: Law enforcement agencies make no arrests in one-third of all murders in the United States. That’s up from just 10 percent of homicides in 1965. Though violent crime has gone down across the U.S. in recent years, so have the percentage of cases in which police even find a suspect. The number of murders solved by law enforcement is even lower, since the FBI’s “clearance rate” only measures arrests, not convictions. The bureau estimates some 200,000 murders have gone unsolved since the 1960s. Law enforcement officials often blame a so-called “no snitch” attitude found in many low-income communities, where they say a number of community members refuse to cooperate with the police and help them find suspects. But some experts point out that murders of law enforcement officers, which often take place in those same neighborhoods, have a very high clearance rate, suggesting a difference in priority for different kinds of murder cases.
That’s it for me. Tweet me. Email me. Comment. Have you gotten your bike out yet? What’s the best spring bike ride location in Cincy? Let me know.
For some musicians, their 9-to-5 is little more than a means to an end. Pizza and guitar strings don’t pay for themselves, after all. Others take pride in their work, both on stage and in the “real world,” but view them as two parts of a whole.
But for Jess Lamb, her twin identities as a musician and teacher are deeply intertwined. She works hard in both professional avenues and has put a large amount of effort into maintaining them, even during her post-American Idol influx of activities. It’s a balancing act with some unexpected complications that she is still learning to walk gracefully. But for Lamb, there is no other choice.
“I think that the public has seen me as a teacher and I don’t want my name to be tainted by this other persona, this other career, this other life. So I don’t want to be slosh drunk. I don’t want to be like Jim Morrison in my experimenting with life. But at the same time there’s a whole other vibe with playing in venues, playing in bars and it is very different from the teacher thing,” Lamb explains.
Before Idol, Lamb’s work as a musician and an ESL teacher were more easily separated. Nowadays, with the added exposure that Idol has brought to her and her late-night performances around town, she has had to go to greater lengths to protect the sanctity of both. A shot of Jameson may not be thrown back with the same careless abandon as a few months prior and photo ops are utterly devoid of the counter-cultural staples of, say, a middle finger or devil horns. This isn’t to say that Lamb was or is a reckless partier at night and a quiet bookworm during the day.
Rather, what happens at night can bleed into the daylight hours and her work in one aspect of life can’t compromise the other. She has to take into account who her new audience members may be and how they learned of Lamb. Being a teacher requires maintaining professionalism at all times. When a teacher is shown on national television, keeping that even-headed mentality all day and all night becomes even more important.
Considering all the time that Lamb has spent on her music after her Idol run, some may wonder why she doesn’t put the teaching on hold for the time being. Between the Idol recaps she does regularly for Fox 19 since leaving the show, the myriad interviews, the residencies at Japps in Over-the-Rhine and Jags in West Chester (as well as other shows), the studio work and all the other opportunities that have arisen, finding time for teaching is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, Lamb has cut down her teaching work to roughly four hours a week, doing basic lesson planning and similar activities. But she still carves out time for her teaching for a very important purpose.
“I don’t do it for the money, it’s not sustaining me. I do it for my spirit. It’s for something that feels important, I don’t know that what I’m doing all the time feels important,” Lamb says.
She views being a teacher and an entertainer as two professions with two different contributions to society. Music and teaching both give something back to the community at large, but she feels that teaching impacts the public on a much larger scale. While singing in a smoky bar reaches a small amount of people, teaching has a much larger reach.
Ultimately, Lamb is a musician and teacher in equal measure. At this point, the music is taking more of her time, but she is determined to not let it take all of it.
“I don’t want to cancel out one or the other with a teacher persona that’s too square or a Rock star persona that’s too crazy and unstable,” Lamb says.
For Lamb, finding a mix of her two professions and passions is an ever-present struggle. When Idol rocketed her music to the forefront, she has had to constantly work to balance it out with activities that are equally as fulfilling. It hasn’t been an easy process by any means but one that she sees as absolutely necessary.
Just don’t be offended if she turns down a shot of whiskey next time you run into her in the Main St. district.
Nick Grever is checking in periodically with Cincinnati-based American Idol contest Jess Lamb about her post-Idol life. Check out previous "Beyond Idol Chatter" posts here. Visit jesslamb.com for music, show dates and more.