Restaurateur Jon Zippersteain — the man behind Japanese gastropub Kaze in OTR and sushi/steakhouse Embers in Kenwood — is slated to open the new Mercer OTR on Nov. 4.
The Mercer, at corner of Vine and Mercer streets (on the ground floor of the Mercer Commons apartment complex), will be a casual, European-influenced bistro with seating for up to 60.
"This restaurant was inspired by the sophistication and Mod sensibilities of '60s cinema, which idealized and often parodied 'The Sweet Life' a la 'La Dolce Vita'," says Zipperstein in a recent press release. "There is a vibrant lifestyle here in OTR that we want to echo. I want people to think of The Mercer as a living room for the neighborhood."
Chef Dan Stoltz will interpret rustic Italian-European dishes — like duck-leg cassoulet, porterhouse for two, short ribs, risotto and chicken saltimbocca — in a modern, contemporary way. All pasta, including garganelli, will be made in-house.
On the bar end, the full-service bar — overseen by head mixologist Greg Wefer — will seat 40 and include Prohibition-era favorites like the Americano (Campari, Aperol, sweet vermouth and lime) and a Blood Orange Sazerac (rye, Solerno and blood orange bitters), plus a diverse wine list and local and craft beers.
The restaurant is slated to open on Nov. 4 and will be — get this! — accepting reservations. Make them at opentable.com or call 513-381-0791.
The Mercer OTR, 1324 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0791, facebook.com/TheMercerOTR.
On Monday, Cincinnati's Foxy Shazam, one of the Queen City's more successful musical exports in recent years (and one of the city's best ever live bands), announced on its Facebook page that it would be disbanding, effective immediately. The extremely hard-touring band has canceled all forthcoming shows, including a hometown New Year's Eve appearance at Oakley's 20th Century Theater.
The band says the split will be for "an unknown amount of time" as the members spend some time with their families and other artistic endeavors. "We truly believe there is a future for Foxy Shazam, that our best art is yet to come," the message continues. "We don't know how long this will take but we plan on someday returning more powerful than ever."
CityBeat has written many articles about Foxy over the years, including a 2010 cover story (read here). The band first caught our attention in 2005 after the self-released The Flamingo Trigger, which we reviewed and talked about with the group.
Hopefully they'll be back sooner than later. I don't like that one of my favorite Foxy tunes is now "ironic." (This still deserves to be co-opted by a local sports team … or better yet, the city's tourism board.)
(Foxy in 2005 and in 2014:)
Phew! Our election issue is done and out in the world, I just wrapped up a draft of next week’s cover story, and I have literally hours before the next City Council meeting. Let’s hang out for a minute and talk about what’s going on.
Mayor John Cranley has endorsed former City Councilman and Human Rights Commission head Cecil Thomas in his run for state Senate, but it’s understandable if you were thinking otherwise. Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn, running against Thomas, has pulled a Cranley quote from a Cincinnati Enquirer article published back in April praising Winburn and put it in campaign material. That kinda, you know, makes it look like Cranley is endorsing him.
Cranley’s standing behind his fellow Democrat, which would be kind of awkward for Winburn if he wasn’t just plowing right on through it.
“His endorsement won't matter at this point," Winburn says. "He has to let everyone know he's a Democrat."
• Iconic Cincinnatian Leslie Isaiah Gaines passed away on Monday. Gaines was a Renaissance man the likes of which we rarely see these days— a larger-than-life lawyer, preacher, songwriter and Hamilton County municipal court judge. Gaines broke down barriers as a black lawyer and judge, as well as standing up for the legal rights of people of all colors.
• The Vatican has removed three Cincinnati catholic priests for sexual abuse offenses involving children. The decision to permanently remove Thomas Kuhn, Thomas Feldhaus and Ronald Cooper from the priesthood was announced yesterday, and while advocacy groups say they’re glad some justice is being done, they also heavily criticize the long, slow nature of the process. The three had been suspended for years and were still collecting paychecks from the church. Feldhaus’ offense dates back to 1979, and Cooper’s to the 1980s. The three are among more than a dozen Cincinnati-area priests investigated following a national scandal involving child abuse in the Catholic church that surfaced more than a decade ago.
• I’m only surprised that it took so long for this to happen. Ghost Hunters, the popular SyFy channel TV series, recently filmed an episode, airing tonight at 9 p.m., in Music Hall. The building is supposedly one of the country’s most haunted locations. Music Hall was constructed starting in 1876 on a former orphanage and burial ground for indigent citizens, and thousands of bones were found during the process. More remains have also been found in subsequent updates of the building, as well as in neighboring Washington Park. So if anywhere has ghosts, it’s Music Hall. The only question is whether any of those ghosts have tons and tons of money and want to like, chip in on some home repairs.
• Cincinnati may end up losing a $4.3 million federal grant for a bike trail on the city’s east side if it follows through with a plan to build on a route along an old train line instead of along the river. Part of the Ohio River Trail has already been built, but continuing to build along the river could be complex and expensive, requiring purchasing property from private owners and building a flood wall. Instead, council is considering shifting to the Oasis Line, a stretch of seldom-used train tracks. Supporters say that plan would be much cheaper and faster to build. But that plan has its own complications, including approval from the Federal Transportation Authority and Genesse and Wyoming Railroad, which holds some rights to the tracks. There’s also the fact that the federal grant money at stake can’t be moved from the Ohio River Trail to the Oasis Line.
• As a candidate, this is not the kind of news you want to hear a week from election day. Cuyahoga County Inspector General Nailah Byrd released a report on County Executive and Democratic candidate for Ohio governor Ed FitzGerald yesterday slamming the fact he drove without a driver’s license for 10 months after taking office. Byrd, who was appointed by FitzGerald, said the Democrat committed “a breach of public trust” for driving his own vehicle and county vehicles without a valid license. The inspector general doesn’t have any disciplinary powers over FitzGerald, but it’s the last thing his sagging, ill-run campaign needs at this point. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich has a towering, double-digit lead over his challenger, and has run circles around him in terms of fundraising, which basically means we’re doomed to four more years of having a governor who defends Ohio’s gay marriage ban, pushes abortion restrictions, refuses federal funds for food aid, and so forth. Great.
Over the Rhine is releasing its third Christmas album, Blood Oranges in the Snow, on Nov. 4, but The New York Times’ website is offering an early listen through its “Press Play” website. Click here to listen.
The album, which follows previous “reality Christmas” efforts Snow Angels and The Darkest Night of the Year, is available now for pre-order here. Pre-orders of the CD will instantly receive a digital version of the album.
OTR’s Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist will do some acoustic dates after Blood Oranges’ release, beginning next week in Washington state. The duo’s “Acoustic Christmas” tour officially begins Dec. 5 in Virginia and culminates with OTR’s annual hometown holiday show at the Taft Theatre on Dec. 20.
The Greater Cincinnati Film Commission continues to bring film shoots to the Queen City — next up is Andy Goddard's The Blunderer, starring Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. The film, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, begins filming on Nov. 17 and will be shot entirely in Cincinnati.
Director Andy Goddard, who's worked on various TV shows and directed the upcoming Elijah Wood drama Set Fire to the Stars, will take on the 1954 psychological thriller by Highsmith. Another adaptation from the author, Carol, was filmed locally this past spring — it starred Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler and was directed by Todd Haynes. It will debut sometime in 2015.
Producers from Carol are returning for the second time this year, giving major kudos to the city.
"We had a great experience in Cincinnati on our film Carol," said Christine Vachon of Killer Films in a press release. “The Film Commission, the rebate, locations, infrastructure and welcoming people of Cincinnati brought us back a second time within one year."
It also sounds like this will be another production that takes advantage of Cincinnati's historic architecture and temporarily puts the city in a retro time warp — filmmakers are looking for period cars from 1960 or earlier. To get involved with that, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, they're looking for extras (send a headshot and email to email@example.com) and qualified crew (send resume to firstname.lastname@example.org). The Blunderer is set to film here Nov. 17-Dec. 21.
This summer, on-the-rise Northern Kentucky-based Hip Hop artist Trademark Aaron released his excellent EP Act Accordingly, which included a bonus track titled "The Best," a collaboration with Cincinnati MC Easy Lantana, the RCA/Polo Grounds Music recording artist who made waves nationally last year with his single, "All Hustle, No Luck."
The track about hard work and perseverance now has an accompanying music video. The clip, directed by Franco Mudey and Mark Merkhofer, had its premiere yesterday on the front page of popular video site Vevo.
Trademark Aaron's next performance is part of what could very well be the best local Hip Hop show of the year, this Thursday at Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinegeist. Reflection Eternal, renowned Cincinnati-based producer/artist Hi-Tek’s collaboration with legendary MC Talib Kweli, headlines the 8 p.m. concert, marking a rare appearance by the duo. Thursday’s lineup also features Cincinnati heroes Mood, who took Cincy Hip Hop nationwide in the ’90s, Buggs Tha Rocka (who’s prepping a new album release for early December), ClockworkDJ (Mac Miller’s official DJ), Valley High, Aida Chakra and many others.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $20 in advance (through cincyticket.com) or $30 at the door (if there are any tickets remaining). There are also $60 advance VIP tickets available, which include a meet-and-greet with the artists.
Morning y’all. Before we begin, I have to share something only tangentially related to the news. Last night I went and checked out a concert at Union Terminal, which has a 100-year-old organ in house and more than 4,000 pipes for that organ built into the walls. I don’t know a whole lot about baroque and classical music, but I do know a lot about loud music, and it was insanely loud. And awesome. Very recommended. To tie this into newsy stuff, I’ll just say go weigh in one way or the other on Issue 8 (the icon tax) at your local polling place.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday more or less tied up what the city will do with its $18 million budget surplus. The committee, which is composed of all nine council members basically adopted City Manager Harry Black’s recommendations outright. The decision came with controversy, however, as some on Council again questioned the process by which the recommendations were proposed. Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.G. Sittenfeld pushed back on the process, accusing Budget Committee Chair Charlie Winburn of trying to push the proposals through quickly and asking why public input wasn’t sought on the proposals before they were brought before Council for a vote. The three abstained from voting for Black’s recommendations.
• Council also wrangled again over funding for Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative at the committee meeting. Several council members had questions about why some established programs are being cut to fund the $2.3 million jobs initiative, especially when the city is running a large budget surplus. Councilman Chris Seelbach pushed for an amendment to the ordinance funding the program to try and restore some cuts to housing advocacy group Housing Opportunities Made Equal and People Working Cooperatively, which helps the elderly and low-income with home weatherization, maintenance and energy efficiency. Those programs lost federal dollars from Community Development Block Grants that have been diverted to the mayor’s new jobs program. The amendment was voted down, 5-4.
“These programs employ people,” said Councilman Wendell Young, who, along with council members Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Simpson voted for the amendment. “When these programs take a hit, that impacts their employees. There’s a real paradox there. These programs leverage dollars. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s help everybody.”
Others turned out to either support the mayor’s program or oppose the cuts. Many spoke on behalf of Cincinnati Cooks, which is a Hand Up partner. But some questioned the mayor’s program. Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless Director Josh Spring praised the organization's partnering with Hand Up, but said cutting other programs was counterproductive and unnecessary.
“Are we really going to lower poverty by five percent in five years by serving just 4,000 people? What the mayor has accomplished is that he has forced groups that get along to come down here and fight each other,” Spring said. “We do have a surplus. There are other ways to do this. Things like lead abatement, things like home repair, things like upward mobility so that folks experiencing low incomes can move up economically — those aren’t handouts.”
• One other skirmish broke out at the marathon meeting, which was still going when I stopped watching it on Citicable at about 6 p.m. (yes, I lead an exciting and enviable life). The tussle broke out over money that was once set aside for permanent supportive housing in the city. That money had been earmarked for a prospective 99-unit affordable housing development in Avondale for those recovering from addiction and other issues called Commons at Alaska. However, pushback from some community members there hamstrung that development. Now it will be used for other things.
“Last June, we had money set aside in the budget for permanent supportive housing,” Seelbach said. “I know some people say Alaska Commons doesn’t have enough community buy-in. But permanent supportive housing is an essential part of the equation. We were told we were not going to be eliminating it. And now guess what? We’re eliminating permanent supportive housing. Well, I’m not going to do that.” Seelbach voted against moving the money, along with Simpson, Young and Sittenfeld.
• That’s enough City Council action, at least until Wednesday. Let’s move on. Normally, the words “best” and “suburbs” in the same sentence cause heavy cognitive dissonance in my brain. But this is cool, I guess. Three Cincinnati suburbs have been ranked among the best in America by a new study. Madeira (3), Montgomery (21) and Wyoming (24) were tops in the region and among the best in the country, according to Business Insider. The rankings looked at nearly 300 ‘burbs across the country and took into account housing affordability, commute times, poverty, public school ratings and the number of stifling gated communities, GAP outlets and SUVs with stick figure family stickers on the back window per capita. Just kidding on those last ones, guys. Suburbs can be cool, too.
• The end of a long, watery saga: Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront restaurant, a boat that has been basically sinking since August, is being demolished.
• The Ohio Department of Transportation commissioned a study to determine future transit needs, and it found that the state will need to double its funding of transit over the next decade to more than $1 billion due to increasing demand. In 2000, the state spent $44 million for public transit. In 2013, it spent just $7.3 million. ODOT also gets money for transit from the federal government, however. Gov. John Kasich's administration has been especially cold to public transit, calling passenger rail supporters a "train cult" and turning down $400 million in federal funds for a commuter line between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. He also, you know, withheld state funds for the streetcar. This is why we can't have nice things.
• In Ohio and beyond, it’s looking more and more likely that Democrats are going to take a beating this midterm election. That’s especially true in Congress, where once-safely Democratic House seats suddenly seem to be up for grabs. If Dems lose enough of those seats, they may not have any chance of taking back a majority in the House until redistricting rolls around again. Many analysts and some in the party have blamed the potential slide in House seats on the unpopularity of the president.
• Finally, if all this news is just too overwhelming for you (I know how you feel) check out this porcupine. He’s eating a pumpkin. It's adorable. You’re welcome.
Our night in Milan did not have one of those types of promoters. Hell, to even call him a promoter is an insult to the concept of promotion. Let’s dive in a little bit and discuss just what potential promoters should and shouldn’t do when bands come a’callin.
First thing’s first — it’s always helpful to be at the venue by the scheduled get-in time. When bands like us arrive, we’ll generally have some questions for you about our lodging for the night, dinner, load-in and load-out logistics, etc. This is especially pertinent on tours like this due to the fact that we aren’t even from this continent; a little extra handholding is appreciated.
What you shouldn’t do is show up at the venue at 9 p.m. when load-in started at 6 p.m. and not even introduce yourself to anyone.
Second, please follow the agreed upon terms of the contract and make sure that the obligations you have are completed satisfactorily. On this tour, Valley of the Sun has two major requests in their contract: a hot meal every night (or a 15 Euro buyout) and accommodations after the show. These accommodations have varied from a promoter’s floor to nice hotels.
If you got caught with a joint that one time in college here in Cincinnati and now you're applying for jobs, that youthful indiscretion can make it much tougher for you.
But that could change. Some of the 10,000 Cincinnatians convicted under an unpopular and now-repealed marijuana law may soon be able to put the past behind them.
City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee today passed an ordinance that, if backed by a full Council vote Wednesday, would allow some city residents convicted of having less than 200 grams of marijuana to have the charges removed from their criminal record.
In 2006, the city passed an ordinance making it a criminal offense to have even small amounts of the drug. A first offense was a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. A second offense could net someone a first degree misdemeanor charge punishable by 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Under Ohio law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a minor misdemeanor charge akin to a parking ticket. Those charges are much easier to get expunged. But municipalities can pass tougher laws against the drug, leading to a patchwork of penalties from one place to another.
Cincinnati’s law was repealed by City Council in 2011, but the after effects remain for many in the city. The drug charges stay on a person’s criminal record, are difficult to get expunged and could inhibit them from getting jobs or school loans.
“Our goal to seal these records so citizens can get on with their life and get jobs," said Councilman Charlie Winburn at the Monday meeting. Winburn, a Republican, has been pushing the ordinance as he runs for state Senate in Cincinnati’s largely Democratic 9th District.
Ian McLagan, who performs at Southgate House Revival on Wednesday, is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. And for good reason.
In 1965, he replaced one Jimmy Weston as keyboard player in Small Faces, one of the two great Mod bands (the other was The Who) who captured the youthquake mood and sense of liberation that swept the Swinging London of the mid-1960s.
In Britain, Small Faces had hit after hit featuring vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott — “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” “All or Nothing,” “Tin Soldier,” “Lazy Sunday,” “Here Come the Nice,” “The Universal” and more. Their one U.S. hit, the psychedelicized “Itchycoo Park,” has been a Rock-radio staple from the day it hit the charts in 1967.
When Marriott departed, the remaining group members — McLagan, bassist Ronnie Lane and drummer Kenney Jones — decided to carry on by recruiting two members of The Jeff Beck Group, singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood. Called Faces, they became one of Britain’s most successful bands of the early 1970s with their rough-hewn, pub-friendly style of rowdy-yet-tender acoustic-electric Rock. Among their classics are “Stay With Me,” “Cindy Incidentally” and “Ooh La La.”
With all the talent in that band, it didn’t stay together too long. Stewart’s concurrent solo career got too big, while Wood was wanted by The Rolling Stones and Jones by The Who. McLagan, whose vocal duties were limited in Small Faces and Faces (who were simultaneously inducted into the Rock Hall in 2012), became an in-demand session and touring keyboardist for Bonnie Raitt, Billy Bragg, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and many others.
He also began occasionally releasing his own mostly small label albums, solo and with The Bump Band, that showcased his ruggedly naturalistic voice and songwriting talents. He has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1994, after moving to the U.S. from Britain and living in L.A. for 16 years.
At the time of his Austin move, Lane was also there. But the latter’s worsening multiple sclerosis soon prompted a move to less-humid Trinidad, Colo. In fact, Lane already was planning that move when McLagan told him he was coming to Austin. So their time together in the same town only lasted for one and a half months. Lane died in 1997.
McLagan’s solo career took a great leap forward with 2009’s Never Say Never, filled with sometimes-rueful, sometimes-redemptive songs, melodic and rhythmic, prompted by the loss of his wife, Kim, in an auto accident. The songs have some of the majesty of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” another high point of early-1970s British Rock.
That album, in turn, inspired the label Yep Roc — home to still-vital veteran singer/songwriters like Nick Lowe, Dave Alvin and Robyn Hitchcock — to distribute his follow-up, this year’s fine United States. It’s been getting rave reviews and is helping McLagan finally emerge as a bandleader.
The album is bringing McLagan (with Bump Band bassist Jon Notarthomas) to Southgate House Revival in Newport Wednesday. As far as he can recall, this is his first show as a headliner in the Cincinnati area since his first solo album, Troublemaker, came out in 1979.
“This year I’ve toured as much as I have in last 10 years,” the affable, sunny-dispositioned McLagan says in a phone interview. “Now I have a record company that wants me to tour and that’s great.”
It’s also a little strange. McLagan, 69, is a member of British Rock & Roll royalty — of the same generation, and often friends with, those who have been arena-filling superstars for six decades and counting. Yet his Cincinnati area date is surprisingly low profile, with little advance publicity. (For a variety of reasons, Southgate House didn’t announce it until just two weeks before the show.)
It’s an odd situation. He’s been making music professionally for 50 years, yet is still establishing himself as a touring attraction.
“The funny thing is, if I’d made several albums in the 1960s and had some success, the people that like my albums now would have grown up liking them,” McLagan says. “I didn’t have that, and I realize I’m stumbling around this wonderful world trying to attract attention now.
“It’s pretty funny, really. But I just love what I do,” he says. “I am so blessed that all I’ve done in my professional life, since I was 17-18, is play music and somehow make a dollar here and there.”
One thing that remains constant in McLagan’s shows — in his psyche — is his love for his late wife. He met her when she was estranged from husband Keith Moon. He always performs several songs from Never Say Never.
“I sing to my wife; it helps me,” he confides. “She was my muse. I’ve written so many songs about her, to her, with references to her, and still do. She’s a big part of my life. We were together for 33 years. It actually does me good — she’s with me all that time in that way.”
Even though McLagan isn’t that famous as an individual, he was in groups whose records sold millions. So shouldn’t his royalties afford him such a cushion he can treat work like a hobby?
“Ha, ha, ha — you’re very funny,” he replies.
He explains Small Faces were on a modest salary that was paid by their manager, Don Arden, with knowledge of their Immediate record label’s head, Andrew Loog Oldham. They never got royalties during the band’s lifetime.
McLagan joined Small Faces in 1965 after original keyboardist Weston left following the group’s first British hit, “Watcha Gonna Do About It.” Although it wasn’t why original Small Faces keyboardist Weston left, he had been the only member of the original lineup who wasn’t actual small, height-wise.
McLagan, who was, had been gigging with more Blues-oriented groups, including one led by Boz Burrell (future King Crimson and Bad Company member).
“They got me because they read a review of a show I was in with another band that said I played Hammond organ and I was really good, and it had a photograph with my name under it," McLagan says. “But it wasn’t a photograph of me, it was of Boz Burrell. So when they saw me, they laughed and Steve picked me up because they hadn’t known I was short. How cool is that? They said, ‘He doesn’t look like his photograph but he looks all right.’ ”
Arden asked McLagan how much he was earning and he said five pounds (the British currency) a week, a very small sum. So he offered McLagan 30 pounds during probation and then an even split with the others.
“He was showing off,” McLagan says. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m a millionaire.’ Eventually, I asked Ronnie Lane, ‘What’s going on? Am I still on probation?’ They knew nothing about it. We went up to the office and Ronnie said to Don, ‘Hey, Mac’s in the band, all right?’ My money went down to 20 pounds a week — that’s what they were getting! We never got anything other than 20 pounds a week for two years and then it was 50 pounds a week. Since 1997, we now get our royalties. Of course, Small Faces albums are not selling in the amount they were when we didn’t get paid, but we are at least getting something.
“But you know what? It didn’t fucking matter,” he continues. “I’m earning every day, Don Arden’s dead, Andrew and I have made up and we’re friends. The money’s gone so move on.”
As for the Faces, McLagan says their record label — Warner Bros. — does pay. But it’s been slow to release archival product. The four-disc Warner/Rhino retrospective Five Guys Walk into a Bar came out back in 2004.
“The Faces sell a little bit but Warner Bros. are such a bunch of idiots because they didn’t realize if we haven’t got records out we can’t make any money,” McLagan says. “It’s taken a while, but there should be a Faces live album … out next year.”
The album was recorded in the States during the Faces’ heyday.
“We’ve just discovered this recently,” McLagan says. “We recorded it and completely forgot about it. I heard a couple tracks and it sounds really good.”
McLagan then reveals an enticing possibility.
“Hopefully we’ll tour behind it,” he says. “Rod’s keen, I’m keen, Kenney’s keen and Ronnie Wood is keen, so I don’t see anything in the way of it.”
In the meantime, McLagan’s Wednesday show at Southgate House is a rare chance to see this great Rock & Roll musician in an intimate setting. (Click here for ticket info.)