Greater Cincinnati has two awards programs that recognize our excellent theater scene. Perhaps that’s good news, but you might wonder if this kind of competition between competitions is the best way to go.
While I’m not quite a junkie, I am fairly addicted to the “33 1/3” book series from publisher Continuum. If you’ve yet to hear about the series, the books are each dedicated to one specific album that has gained some sort of notoriety in the music world. The records chosen are mostly cult favorites with a few influential blockbusters mixed in. Of the 60 books written so far (each by a different author), the series has covered Pet Sounds, Songs in the Key in Life, Exile on Main St. and Led Zeppelin II but also lower-selling but no less influential recordings by the Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian, Guided By Voices, DJ Shadow and Sonic Youth. (For a great overview, pick up one of the two Greatest Hits volumes released by the publisher.)
The tomes vary in approach, with some offering strictly historical examinations, some more about the author’s personal relationship with the album and others a mix of both. Chicago-based writer and music industry vet Bob Gendron has written what will likely be the only Cincinnati-connected album in the series, telling the tale behind Gentlemen, the major-label debut and relative breakthrough album by The Afghan Whigs. I would argue that records by Over the Rhine and The Ass Ponys, among others, deserve the 33 1/3 treatment, but they’re likely not well known enough to pique the publisher’s interest. I’d also argue that my personal favorite Whigs’ album, Black Love, should get a book, but the chances of having two Whigs stories in the series are just as slim.
Gendron mostly plays historian, telling the story via research and numerous interviews with the prime players, including all of the Whigs (drummer Steve Earle included), Sub Pop employees (Gendron himself used to be one) and other friends and industry connections. He also does a fantastic job of recreating the state of the Whigs at the time, a band of tight friends on the brink of major success yet also inflicted with drug issues and internal and external squabbles.
The story of Gentlemen is bookended by the tale of the band’s beginnings and their breakup, all the way up through last year’s greatest hits album. There are a lot of interesting tidbits and revelations. Gendron gets singer/songwriter Greg Dulli to talk about his serious relationship with the mysterious “Kris,” the dissolution of which led to the album’s tortuous, heartbroken tone. Other fun facts: Dulli recorded several of the album’s lead vocal tracks in one night while flying on coke and trying to impress a girl; Steve Earle was booted for several reasons (alcohol abuse, meddling girlfriend, creative control issues, ego conflict); and labelmate Linda Ronstadt was allegedly furious about the album’s cover (depicting a young boy and girl lounging on a bed), apparently under the impression that it was a naked bellybutton away from being child porn. It was also interesting to read that one of the band’s main friends at Elektra Records was feeding information to the nasty, slanderous 'zine Fat Greg Dulli.
Gendron gets to about every detail of the album, from the cover art’s original inspiration and liner notes to the songs’ inspirations and recording. But he doesn’t just relay facts. He also talks about Gentlemen as an artistic statement, carefully dissecting and describing the individual songs’ and the general album’s mood, cause and effect. Not only does Gendron’s book offer the last word on Gentlemen, it also shows what a compelling story The Afghan Whigs’ entire career remains.
For Whigs fans or even just those who were around Cincinnati to witness the band’s rise from little underground touring unit to soulful, seductive Rock machine, the book is a fascinating remembrance. For those who’ve never even heard of the Afghan Whigs, the story is universal and dramatic enough to be read as a novel (save the music-critic-y song dissertations).
The story is so good, in fact, that it would be great to see Gendron expand it beyond the 113 pages of this book. As his Gentlemen proves, the Whigs are deserving of a long-form biography that tells the band’s complete story. Who knows? Maybe Gentlemen: The Movie isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility.
Too bad John Belushi isn't around to play Greg. And Jimmy Page is too old to play Rick McCollum.
— Mike Breen
And he's not done yet: Fincher's American version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is currently in production and has a release date of Dec. 20. How’s that for an early Christmas present?
A Cincinnati outdoor advertising company announced Tuesday that it will take down controversial billboards that opponents claim are aimed at intimidating voters.
Norton Outdoor Advertising had been contracted to put up about 30 billboards that read “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” The billboards also listed the maximum penalty for voter fraud — up to 3 and a half years and a $10,000 fine.
Opponents of the billboards claim they were strategically placed in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods in Cincinnati as a means to discourage those largely Democratic voters from going to the polls.
The billboards were funded by an anonymous “private family foundation.”
In a statement posted online, Norton Executive Vice President Mike Norton said the displays would be taken down as soon as possible. He wrote that the foundation and Norton agreed after hearing criticism that the sentiment surrounding the displays was contrary to their intended purpose.
The family foundation didn’t intend to make a political statement, but rather make the public aware of voting regulations, he wrote.
“We look forward to helping to heal the divisiveness that has been an unfortunate result of this election year,” Norton wrote.
Norton had previously told CityBeat that the billboards were not targeted but distributed randomly throughout the city.
Several Cincinnati officials wrote to the company requesting the billboards be taken down.
ClearChannel Outdoor Advertising announced on Monday that it was removing similar billboards in Cleveland and Columbus.
The billboards throughout Ohio had garnered national criticism and media attention.
A rival outdoor advertising company is putting up 10 new billboards to rebut the voter fraud ones.
The new red, white and blue billboards will read “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!”
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in an emailed news release that he reached out to Lamar Advertising Company to ask if they would donate the billboards throughout Cincinnati.
“We should be encouraging folks to participate in our democratic process, not trying to scare them,” Sittenfeld wrote. “I salute Lamar’s generosity and their support in encouraging citizens to raise their voice and not be scared away.”
Not that anyone really gives a [expletive] what Hank Williams, Jr., thinks about politics, but the country singer has gotten himself canned from Monday Night Football for saying insensitive things about subjects he doesn't know that much about. Williams yesterday told Fox & Friends that John Boehner's golf game with President Obama was "one of the biggest political mistakes ever," comparing it to “Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu,” and then explaining that Obama and Joe Biden are “the enemy.”
Saturday semifinals and on the men’s side, the only real intrigue comes from looking ahead to the finals, although any player will tell you that they can never overlook the opponent immediately across the net.
Novak Djokovic, the number two seed, goes toe-to-toe with the sixth seed from Argentina Juan Martin Del Potro, the first man other than Rafael Nadal to steal a Grand Slam from Federer during his amazing run from a few years ago. Del Potro has dealt with injuries, which slowed him down following his US Open win, but he’s back and clearly has what it takes to reach the finals here.
Djokovic has definitely brought that return game of his, which will be key against the taller Del Potro who takes advantage of his height. The first set stays on-serve until Del Potro litters a serve game with two double faults and Djokovic breaks for a 4-2 lead. From that point, it’s a routine set of holds with Djokovic winning the set 6-3.
Djokovic breaks Del Potro during his second service game in the second set. A pair of holds before Djokovic breaks again (Del Potro fails to win a point during this service game) for a 5-2 lead. Watching the latter portion of this set, its curious to see Djokovic pushing Del Potro further and further off the baseline with punishingly deep shots. And he pushes and shoves him right out of the match with a final ace [6-3, 6-2].
The other semifinal match is all Swiss, all the time. The number one-seed and world’s number one player Roger Federer against Stanislas Wawrinka. The two teamed up to capture the gold in doubles in the Olympics and having served as practice partners over the years, there’s a real familiarity that could make this match intriguing.
Federer comes out and it is apparent that as the man is king of all he surveys. The crowds are overwhelmingly behind him, granting him home court advantage, although its not like he needs it.
The first set features flashes of brilliance from each man as they hold serve with Wawrinka confirming that he has a powerful weapon in his serve. He logs more aces than Federer, yet Federer's net play and shot selection more than keeps him in the match. By the inevitable tiebreak, the all-around game of Federer leads to a 7-4 win.
The second set is more of the same as they trade holds up through 3-games all, and then Federer sneaks in a break and a strong hold for a 5-3 lead. The expectation is for a Wawrinka hold and then Federer to serve it out, but an untimely double fault for Wawrinka gives the game and match to Federer [7-6 (7-4), 6-3].
Roger Federer versus Novak Djokovic. The number one seed versus the number two seed – the first time the two top seeds have met in the finals at the W&S Open. This is the match everyone was waiting for and the crowds are raucous.
On court, the action takes an unexpected turn. Federer breaks immediately, holds and then breaks again for a 3-0 lead. He holds again at love and unbelievably breaks once more for 5-0. Is Djokovic hurt? He makes no calls for his coach or a trainer and simply lets Federer serve out the first set [6-0]. Has he ever been blanked in a set, in an event final?
When Djokovic holds to start the second set, the crowd whoops it up, hoping to provide him with a charge. And now both players look like the top seeds we came to see. The service games add up and there’s the sense that a tiebreak is in store.
When it arrives, the temperature seems to rise. Heat and excitement generate a palpable jolt. Federer grabs a mini-break on Djokovic’s first serve and holds his two points. Before the air deflates out of the stands, Djokovic holds and breaks back. Back and forth they go. At 6-6, with the crowd firmly in his corner, Djokovic holds to take a 7-6 lead, but Federer scores a huge smash before taking the next two points and the match.
He raises his arms and grants Mirka a knowing nod as he walks over to towel off before the trophy presentation. This match sets the field on notice that Federer is ready to extend his Grand Slam singles title count even further and everybody, including the defending champion, better watch out.
The women’s finalists, ninth seed Na Li (CHN) and the fifth seed Angelique Kerber (GER), have the distinction of being the players who took out the Williams sisters on the way towards this meeting and each of them has proven capable of slugging it out or exerting their will through carefully constructed points.
Much like the men’s final though, this one starts off rather one-sided. Kerber follows up an all-business hold with a quick break of Li and another hold. Li finally hangs on during a service game, but what has undone her thus far is an inability to rein in her shots. Serves and groundstrokes sail far and wide in an-ever increasing avalanche. She seems confounded by her lack of control, but by the time Kerber has earned the first set at 6-1, Li has no answers and yet, it is Kerber who calls for an on-court conference with her coach.
The second set offers more of the same, as Li continues to push shots, except for her swinging half-volleys, which she nails with surprising accuracy. Somehow, she settles into a groove and evens things up at 3-all. Kerber lapses into a funk and before you know it, Li has secured the second set 6-3.
Li breaks to open the third set and suddenly, the two have completely switched games. Kerber can’t keep the ball on the court or as the games mount, it looks like she’s frustrated by Li’s ability to power shots all over the court. Kerber begins to stop chasing down shots that she consistently reached in the first set. She calls for a second pow-wow with her coach after falling down 3-0. Li aces her to take the fourth game, but Kerber digs deep enough to win her next service game and the crowd perks up for a minute, checking Kerber’s resolve. Unfortunately, Kerber had nothing left in the tank and she allowed Li to sweep her off the court without much resistance.
The final score [1-6, 6-3, 6-1] doesn’t quite reflect the curious lack of sharp precise play. It will be interesting to see if either player can use today’s effort as a springboard into the US Open. The women’s side of the upcoming Slam appears wide open, ready and waiting for someone, anyone to step up to the big stage, like Stosur last year. At this rate though, it will take far more from either of these finalists to own that epic moment.
Why do you suck now?
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has been celebrating its year-long 50th season with a remarkable number of premieres. Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern will sustain that commitment to new work with a world premiere to kick off the 2010-11 season in September. High will feature movie and stage actress Kathleen Turner in a drama already designated for a move to Broadway early in 2011.
Right around Thanksgiving time, CityBeat began to receive several queries via email, Twitter and Facebook, all essentially asking, "What the hell happened to the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards?"
CityBeat's annual celebration of Greater Cincinnati's best original music had been held for 15 years on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The reasoning was that musicians who tour a lot would hopefully be home for the ceremony and regular weekly giggers might be less likely to have an every-Sunday residency. Also, we thought, perhaps the holiday timing would allow us to nab a few of the city's favorite sons and daughters (Jerry Springer? SJP? Any Lachey we could get our hands on?) as presenters.
In the end, the timing of the ceremony never really had much effect. We did have Jerry Springer — via video tape from Chicago — at the very first CEAs (held at the old Sycamore Gardens in Over-the-Rhine), but the video malfunctioned. Maybe it was an omen. We also spent many years attempting to lure the Isley Brothers to perform and be inducted into the CEA Hall of Fame, but the Isleys haven't been "local" in almost half a century, so the Thanksgiving timing was irrelevant (and the Isleys would have cost a fortune to bring to town).
We also discovered those hard-touring musicians tour so hard, having an off day the Sunday before Thanksgiving is hardly a given. Last year, for example, Artist of the Year winners Walk the Moon were on the road and unable to attend (though they still created one of the show's better moments by having their mothers accept on their behalf).
Having the ceremony in November was also a hassle once CityBeat acquired the MidPoint Music Festival, which occurs annually in late September. The CEAs bumped up a little too close to MPMF, making the organization of the awards a hectic endeavor.
So, starting with the 2012 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, the ceremony will now be held in January. This change allows our staff to fully focus on the CEAs without battling MPMF fatigue. And it creates an easier-to-track window for nomination consideration. In the future, the Album of the Year category's eligibility timeframe will be anything released that year. Previously, the timeframe was approximately October of the previous year to October of the current year. (This year, eligibility will be extended to anything released in 2012, but also includes releases that came out October-December 2011.)
The 16th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony will be held at Covington's Madison Theater on Jan. 27. This year's host will be the very funny Ted Clark, who is also making plans to do his popular "live talk show" at the after-party (read more about Ted here). And there will be more live performances at the CEA ceremony than ever before. Ticket info, the lineup of performers and more details will be released soon.
(Let's get this out of the way right up front, since the Northern Ky. locale always gets mocked every year — yes, the "2012" "Cincinnati" Entertainment Awards will be held in Covington in 2013. How odd!)
Another new wrinkle for the CEAs this year will be a live showcase of the "New Artist of the Year" nominees; the winner of the category (normally decided by the nominating committee) will be largely determined by audience vote at the showcase, which is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 18 at Bogart's. More details to come.
The 2012 CEA nominees — determined by a large pool of local music experts, including writers, bloggers, club owners, radio show hosts and others (this year's committee is the largest yet) — will be announced Dec. 12. The ballot will go live at citybeat.com and then it's up to you. Fan voting determines all categories except for the "Critical Achievement" ones — Artist of the Year, Album of the Year — which are voted on by the committee.
Stay tuned for many more CEA announcements to come. And visit citybeat.com's CEA page here for a look at past nominees, winners and more.