Hello Cincy! Here’s what’s going on this morning.
Though you won’t find a way to help shore up the building on the ballot in November, efforts to fund renovations of Music Hall may get a big boost soon. Advocates for the Cincinnati landmark have applied for $25 million through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program offered by the state once every two years. Music Hall is competing for the tax credits with The Huntington Building and May Co. Department Store building in Cleveland and the former Goodyear headquarter building in Akron. The award would be in addition to another $25 million in other tax credits and $40 million in private donations, all of which go along way toward the building’s estimated $133 million renovation costs. The winner of the credits will be announced in December.
• Lots of questions have been popping up in City Council and elsewhere recently about the way the city makes development loans, even as past loans to some of the city’s biggest developers continue to linger unpaid. Council members have expressed concerns that there isn’t enough of a process for deciding who gets the loans and on what terms, leaving a patchwork of deals that are of questionable value for the city. The city has a number of old loans it has made to big developers still hanging around, including almost $9 million worth from between 1991 and 2001. Those loans were used on big, now completed projects in and around downtown. The terms are fairly generous, and many of the borrowers have yet to repay much if any of the principles on those loans.
• Err, so I went to school here for a few years. The Principal of Edgewood High School, which is up in Butler County between Hamilton and Middletown, has said he’ll be getting his concealed carry permit so he can start packing a gun on the job. State law allows individual districts to decide if staff should be armed, but Edgewood, based in the rural/exurban town of Trenton, is the only district in the Greater Cincinnati area that has moved to allow it. Principal Russ Fussnecker said he may start carrying the weapon before the school year is out. He says it’s a measure “to make the school safer” in case of a mass shooter. Other schools have taken milder safety measures. Kings High School in Mason has installed new barriers to keep someone from shooting their way through doors into the school. Lakota has added in-school police and training drills.
•Law enforcement officials from Memphis, Tenn., and Detroit are meeting with officials from Ohio in Cleveland this week to discuss rape kit backlogs at a first-of-its-kind summit around the issue. Untested kits, which may contain genetic information that can convict rapists, have piled up here and in other states. The untested kits have become a big issue in this year's race for attorney general, as challenger Democrat David Pepper hits Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine over Ohio's backlog.
• Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is getting more help from Democrats in her much-watched run against Kentucky Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Many of the 16 female Democratic senators are rallying around Grimes with campaign plugs, strategy advice, money and other support. Powerful Senators like Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. have all jumped on board, holding fundraisers, donating cash and giving shout outs to Grimes. Whether all that help will pay off remains to be seen. Various pundits and polls have recently declared Grimes dead in the water, while others say she’s still neck and neck with McConnell.
• One of the big issues in the race is the state’s dependence on coal. Both McConnell and Grimes have promised to keep coal-friendly policies alive in Kentucky, which is dominated by the industry. McConnell has tied Grimes to Obama, who many Kentuckians blame for the industry’s decline. But how much does coal really matter to Kentucky? Turns out, there is as much myth flying around as fact.
• Throw off thy long-sleeved chains of corporate oppression, my barista sisters and brothers, and put on the short-sleeve shirt or necktie of freedom. But please not both at the same time, because that just looks terrible. Starbucks is lifting its ban on visible body art, as well as “colored ties and neck scarves and black denim.” Really? You all couldn’t wear black jeans? If CityBeat outlawed black denim, I would have to go buy like, five new pairs of pants.
The event, which raised money for local nonprofit Gabriel’s Place and its Junior Culinary Institute, took place at the Christian Moerlein brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The restaurants represented (Jimmy G's, Django Western Taco, LaLa's Blissful Bites, Invito Chef, El Rancho Grande, Huit BBQ, Redondo Taqueria, Axis Alley on the Levee, Seasons 52, Silver Ladle, Elephant Walk Injera & Curry House, Washington Platform, Swad, O'Malley's in the Alley, Mazzaro's Place, The Pub, Boswell Alley and Moerlein Lager House) each provided a small sample of their favorite items for attendees to nibble on, from mini-steak sandwiches to shot glass-sized pecan pie. Some of the vendors were parked in the more polished taproom, while the majority of the booths and the competition itself appeared in the “basement chic” room next door. Attendees wandered from booth to booth, balancing small plates and frothy cups of Moerlein beer as they waited for the main event to begin. Everyone looked slightly confused at first, but it didn’t take long for everyone to catch on and figure out where to go — the Four Roses bourbon cider probably helped.
Iron Fork’s version of Kitchen Stadium was a small-ish cooking space set up at one end of the very large room. It was fully stocked with brightly colored produce from SYSCO, plenty of spices, gas burners and shiny stainless steel cookware from Cooks'Wares. Scattered across the room were large TVs (not in HD, our spoiled selves lamented) for those who may not be able to find a spot in the small area in front of the kitchen to watch the action. The three judges were perched to the left of the kitchen, presumably starving.
Frances Kroner of Sleepy Bee, Jose Salazar of Salazar and Joe West of The Palace at The Cincinnatian were the three chefs chosen to appear for the event. Each of them had one hour to create a dish using the elusive secret ingredient: figs. (Most of the crowd had left before the secret was revealed; it had to remain a secret to make the competition fair for everyone.) Each chef also had a Junior Culinary Institute student from Gabriel’s Place on their team; all three of the students, it must be said, were incredibly impressive in their professionalism and skill.
The hour-long cooking time per chef allowed attendees to continue to wander and stuff their faces with local treats. The amount of sweet options seemed high (possibly because it was hard to locate the free water to cleanse your palate). The beer line never seemed to shorten, which was fine. If anything, it allowed for more socializing with the other food enthusiasts. Watching the cooking itself was only really entertaining near the end of the hour-long time limit — Jose Salazar straight up ran to the judges’ table with his dishes at the end, and that’s just good TV.
Once each chef’s segment was complete and the three judges were served, a fourth dish was auctioned off to a lucky audience member. (Frances Kroner’s dish went for a whopping $150.)
"All the chefs did a great job and we had a lot of fun sharing our thoughts and our food with the crowd," says judge and CityBeat food writer Anne Mitchell. "Frannie Kroner's lamb chop entree was wonderful, and (Ilene Ross, CityBeat food writer and judge) had a great idea — she added one of her lamb chops to the auction for Gabriel's Place."
"I ate all three of mine and gnawed the bones clean, so that shows you where my heart resides," she continues, laughing. "Jose's appetizer, lamb tartare, was amazing. Ilene licked her plate. It was the kind of dish that separates ordinary food from art."
The audience did not hear from the judges until the end, when they named The Palace’s Joe West as the winner for his appetizer and entree dishes.
"Joe West's appetizer and entree blew us away," says Mitchell. "The scallop crudo was another work of art, and it was the perfect starter for Joe's main dish. I wish I could be 100 percent sure of the description but things got a little crazy at the end and we really didn't hear what Joe said, but I think it was halibut in veloute sauce with bacon crumbles for a garnish, flash-fried potato 'chips' from tiny fingerling potatoes and the figs."
"Figs were the 'secret ingredient' that all the chefs had to incorporate into their dishes," she continues. "It would have been fun to see them utilized a little more essentially in the dishes instead of used as a (yummy) garnish, but that seems a little like splitting hairs."
Overall, the event’s first run was a success. Did I want to snag one of Kroner’s scallops or a bite of Salazar's lamb tartare right off the judges’ table? Sure. But I didn’t, and it still turned out to be a nice little Wednesday night.
Cincinnati greats Wussy continue to surge into the national spotlight, playing sold-out shows across the country and continuing to garner glowing press for their spectacular Attica! album. The band also recently posted several photos of the members filming something for CBS in New York City recently (more info TBA), which should escalate its status even more (a film crew was on hand she the band played the MidPoint Music Festival recently, as well). Can’t think of a more deserved local band.
This evening you can catch the band live FOR FREE on Fountain Square as Wussy headlines this week’s happy-hour “Rocktober on the Square” series. Music starts at 5 p.m. with the fantastic Roots Rock ensemble Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound.
Here’s Wussy’s full appearance on KEXP recorded earlier this year.
• Nashville rockers Those Darlins are also a band on the rise and their fan base in Cincinnati continues to grow thanks to their repeated visits to the Queen City (and their great sound and live show). The group plays a free show at Northside Tavern tonight with guests Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s and Even Tiles. Doors open at 8 p.m.
• The two-night, “whole house” showcase at the Southgate House Revival in Newport celebrating local indie label Phratry Records kicks off tonight. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is $5 each night. Click here and here for details. A documentary film about Phratry is currently in the works. Here’s the trailer:
• London Pop band Bastille was supposed to play at Covington’s Madison Theater back in May but cancelled and then got HUGE (or HUGER — its music had already been selling big and the band appeared on Saturday Night Live in January). So tonight the group is playing its make-up date at our riverfront arena. A review of Bastille’s recent show in Toronto said the young crowd screamed a lot.
Fellow Synth Pop band Grizfolk opens tonight’s 8 p.m. show at U.S. Bank Arena. Tickets are $29.50-$35.
• It’s looking more and more like you’ll never get a chance to see Led Zeppelin perform live and in person ever again. But tonight you can see the “American Led Zeppelin,” Get the Led Out, at the Aronoff Center. Showtime is 8 p.m .Next best thing? If you go, let us know. It’s certainly going to cost you less than what it would to see the real deal — tickets are $33-$46.
• Eclectic Americana singer/songwriter Cory Branan plays Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Over-the-Rhine’s The Drinkery, one of the best newer live music clubs in the area. Local duo Rucca opens.
Branan has been drawing attention for his dynamic, boundless sound over the past 15 years, but his most recent album, The No-Hit Wonder, is earning him some of the best reviews of his career.
Writer Brian Baker spoke with Branan for a feature story in this week’s CityBeat. Branan said the diversity of styles that crop up in his songs just kind of happen naturally and is something never predetermined while a song is being written.
“I try not to impose on the song,” Branan says. “I end up in much more interesting places if I follow and see where it’s going. I overwrite a lot and go back with a machete instead of clippers, so I can end up three songs down from the one I started with, and that’s the interesting place for me. Then I sort of let them tell me what clothes they want to go out in, even down to the studio. Like ‘Sour Mash,’ I always pictured it as a flat-picked barnburner with fiddle and banjo, and then we were doing the record and I found out that Joe Fick, who’s a Memphis boy, was up in Nashville and he’s just the best doghouse (upright bass) player I’ve ever heard, so I was like, ‘OK, we’ll go a little more Sun Records on this one.’ I pivoted at the last minute.”
• Chicago Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist E.G. Kight performs Saturday at the DownTowne Listening Room, the intimate, “listener-friendly” new venue downtown in the historic Shillito’s building. Born in Georgie and based in Chicago, Kight is a cult favorite and has worked with everyone from B.B. King and Koko Taylor to Merle Haggard and George Jones. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15 (all proceeds from shows at the Listening Room go to the performing artists).
• Legendary British Folk artist Richard Thompson plays the Dave Finkelman Auditorium on the campus of Miami University-Middletown Saturday night. Amanda Shires opens the 7:30 p.m. concert. The show is a part of Thompson's current acoustic tour in support of Acoustic Classics, an album featuring acoustic takes on some of the songwriter's favorite songs from his storied catalog. Tickets are $35 and available in advance here.
Check out Jason Gargano’s show preview for CityBeat here.
• Australian Electronic music composer/performer Ben Frost brings his tour behind his latest album A U R O R A to the Contemporary Arts Center on Sunday. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($10 for CAC members).
This is Electronica, but it’s neither conventional Electronic Dance music, pure-noise Industrial nor (solely) peacefully Ambient droning. Noirish and foreboding, thrilling and involving, it aurally paints a landscape that has been compared to Blade Runner. It unfolds for 40 minutes, like an urgent story. The music can be lulling, even comforting, in its brooding introspection, but it keeps building — it’s complicated like a symphony. Overall, it’s tough and emotional, with moments of grandeur along with reverence to minimalism.
• Some other Australian musicians will also be in town Sunday night. Psych Folk/Rock band Immigrant Union — fronted by Dandy Warhols member Brian DeBoer — plays Sunday a 10 p.m. show at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub with guests White Violet. Like all MOTR shows, it’s a freebie. DeBoer describes the 10-year-old band’s sound as “Spiritualized being (baptized) in a river of Creedence Clearwater.”
Click here for more live music events in Greater Cincinnati this weekend and feel free to promote other cool shows that were unmentioned in the comments.
Two that I highly recommend, and that I’m afraid might be overlooked because of bigger museum shows, are Emily Hanako Momohara’s Heirloom — at Downtown’s Weston Art Gallery — and David Benjamin Sherry’s Western Romance at a temporary space at 1500 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine. Momohara’s show is up through Nov. 30 but Sherry’s ends Nov. 1.
Both use color wonderfully to make you focus on objects and/or landscapes close-up — so close-up they have a transporting, transcendent effect if you can spend enough time with them.
Sherry, an L.A. artist recently featured on The New York Times Magazine’s cover, uses color in a psychedelic way, achieving the effect he wants during processing. It gives his Western mountain and desert landscapes a glaze — a “purple haze,” in the case of “Putting Grapes Back on the Vine” — that turns physical geography into a state of mind. There are also in the show black-and-white prints by masters of Western photography — Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins — to acknowledge Sherry’s debt and also proclaim a change.
Momohara, who taught photography at the Art Academy of Cincinnati but now is relocating to China, is using Heirloom to explore ideas about her Okinawan and Japanese ancestry. These distinctive still photographs and photograph-like videos isolate and deeply contemplate objects related to or inspired by that.
The vertically formatted pieces — like the fantastic “Gathering” video, which looks at luminescent, open-mouthed koi as they crowd around the water’s surface — seem to be moving forward a grand narrative, like scrollwork. And the more horizontal pieces, like “Mask #1,” revel in mystery through the way illuminated objects occupy space in an otherwise dark ground.
To me, these two shows are among FotoFocus’ very best — and I especially hope Momohara returns at some point with something much more extensive.
All right. It’s beautiful outside right now and I’m at a desk (as I imagine you are) with a load of election stories to write. I’m sure you’ve got your own stuff going on as well; let’s do this news thing quick so we can all be a little closer to getting to the weekend.
Are you embarrassed for Ohio yet? No? Just wait. Everyone’s favorite big-talkin’ sheriff will be representing the Greater Cincinnati area to an audience of millions soon. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is filming a segment of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, where he will tangle with host Jon Stewart. Jones is well known for his antics and sometimes factually questionable assertions. He recently tried to bill Mexico for the amount it cost Butler County to jail undocumented immigrants he alleges came from that country. He also likes to equate immigrants with crime, drugs and disease which I explored briefly a while back. Now… he’s going national.
“We’re going to be filming a segment on illegal immigration and the upcoming elections,” Jones told the Cincinnati Enquirer about the show, which he’s filming this afternoon. Can’t wait!
• Dena Cranley, wife of Mayor John Cranley, will join 14 area pastors’ wives in an effort to extend health tests and information about diseases that predominantly affect low-income urban areas, the mayor's office said in a news release today. The services will be available at area churches with financial support from Walgreens. The program is part of a national push called First Ladies Health Initiative that has already been launched in Los Angeles and Chicago. The initiative provides free screening for diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and more.
• 3CDC will buy three buildings with 80 units of low-income housing in Over-the-Rhine on the 200 block of West 12th Street across from the Drop Inn Center and at 1301 Walnut Street. The developer says the buildings are “problem” properties, with high amounts of police calls, and that residents there want out. 3CDC says it’s helping those living in the 64 occupied units find other places to live. The developer doesn’t know what it will do with the buildings yet, but says the building on Walnut may become an expansion of nearby Mercer Commons project and could end up as mixed-income housing,. Helping low-income people find more enjoyable, safer surroundings sounds great, but a couple questions spring to mind. Will the low-income units be replaced one-for-one? What do residents have to say, and will they be relocated to nearby housing in OTR? None have been quoted so far about the buildings’ problems, and it’s unclear where they will be moved to. You can peruse crime stats yourself to see the propensity of police calls to the buildings, how many people arrested lived in the buildings and so forth.
• There’s a reason you shouldn’t get relationship-related tattoos, and I think it’s kind of the same with building names. Chiquita Brands International peaced out on Cincinnati in 2011, first moving to North Carolina and now training its wondering eyes toward Ireland. Until recently, we still had a big, prominent building, the Chiquita Center, bearing the company’s name. It kind of made us look like we weren’t ready to move on from the relationship. No more. We’re finally letting go. The center will be rebranded as 250 East Fifth, a simple, bold declaration that the building doesn’t need to define itself by its bygone relationship with some flashy, globe-trotting company with tons of banana money.
• Finally, I think I found my Halloween costume. This guy was dressed in the creepiest possible way when he drunkenly entered someone’s house and passed out on their couch, only to be discovered by children. Undead Santa couch surfer for the win.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Rock venues in the States, shall we? In my mind, there are two distinct types: you either have the nice, well-kept venues that often lack a certain spark that make them truly special or the dives that feel like a Punk Rock haven but smell like a dirty sock filled with cheese. You have to choose between fantastic atmosphere or a bathroom that’s actually been cleaned since The Sex Pistols were the next big thing.
Well, my friends, it seems that you can get the best out of both worlds; you just have to hop the pond and check out European venues. On this trip, I’ve been in an underground hall converted into a bar, a warehouse covered in graffiti and stickers, a youth center filled with murals slapped in the middle of a small town (and next to a church) and a venue in Berlin filled with so many weird and wonderful knick-knacks, I can’t wait to get home and start redecorating a little bit. I wanted to share some pictures and highlights of what we’ve seen so far.
The venue in Freiburg was called The White Rabbit and it was located underground, down several flights of stairs. The entrance was narrow but opened up to a large, cylindrical structure. We guessed that it was used as a bomb shelter or wine storage but the real origin was even more intriguing. It was originally the town’s coal chamber; the building above it had been leveled during the war and had been rebuilt.
Hamburg’s venue was the most surprising so far. As a Metal kid through and through, the graffiti and sticker-laden walls of Hafenklang instantly appealed to me. It had an industrial air about it and it felt just dirty enough. The wall adornments actually gave the place an artistic element. Somehow, hundreds — if not thousands — of taggers managed to create a cohesive composition worthy of any modern art museum.
Berlin has the honor of housing my favorite club yet. The Bassy Club was full of odd and awesome artifacts. I’m a big fan of weird decorations and this place was absolutely chock full of them. When we walked in, we all went into full tourist mode and started snapping pictures left and right. I now fully intend on finding a cow skull and making him a new light fixture when I make it back to the states.
Special kudos goes to Berlin for being an awesome city. We got a few hours to roam around and we ran into some sort of festival and found an awesome “Horror Rock Bar” called Last Cathedral. Sadly, it wasn’t open when we were walking around, so Nick and I had to resort to pulling an Immortal pose in front.
CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
It’s probably safe to call 80,000 tons of rotting meat and vegetables a big mess. In fact, I don’t want to live in a world where such a thing doesn’t qualify for “big mess” status. The deeper issue is what can be learned from such a mess and who will be held responsible.
Council voted Oct. 15 to spend $300,000 to clean up Compost Cincy, a former composting company created in Winton Hills in 2012 with the help of the city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES).
Neighbors of the site have complained for the past year of unbearable odors. The company closed its doors in October 2013, but the smell remained. Now, the city is left with the bill for cleaning it up.
Composting takes food waste, and by rotating it and controlling its decomposition, converts it into soil. San Francisco was the first city to institute a municipal program when it started collecting compostable waste in 1996. Today, the city collects more than 600 tons of waste a day for composting. A number of other cities, including Portland, Ore., Seattle, Boulder, Colo., and other generally progressive places also have programs. If composting isn’t done correctly, though, allowing for the correct mixture of air to reach the refuse, you just end up with a progressively worse smell.
That seems to be what happened with Compost Cincy. Since 2012, the company accumulated 45 code violations from the city and two EPA citations. The city refused to renew its lease last year due to complaints about odor. One factor at play may have been the fact the company was doing outdoor composting. Many compost facilities are located indoors as a way to mitigate odor creation.
The OES will cover $220,000 of the cost of clean up with its budget, with another $80,000 coming from city contingency account. Mayor John Cranley pinned a good deal of the blame for the project’s failure on the city office.
“The origin of this entire organization is to combat odor,” Cranley said during an Oct. 15 City Council meeting. “So it’s pretty embarrassing that it was this office that came up with this compost mess in the first place. It’s a nightmare for the people who have had to go through this for a year."
Council voted 9-0 to fund the clean up effort. But Cranley’s remarks created a good deal of controversy around the role of the organization and the city’s efforts to establish sustainability programs.
The official mission of the office goes beyond odor control. The OES is charged with leading sustainability efforts in the city. That includes redeveloping brownfield sites around the city, helping run Cincinnati’s recycling program and protecting the city’s air quality. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach all chimed in to support the office.
“I want to stick up for the Office of Environment because I don’t think it’s their fault, or that they were in any way trying to emit odors on purpose in our city,” Seelbach said at the meeting. “Composting is something that there is a large demand for. The business, Compost Cincy, was actually doing really well because lots of people wanted to bring their compost there and buy the soil that it produces.”
Seelbach said zoning was the big issue, something the OES doesn’t control. Simpson said that the Office of Trade and Development, not the OES, selected the site. She said the office needs more support.
“We need more resources to the offices of sustainability to so we can get at least 10 years behind,” Simpson said, noting that Cincinnati is falling short of sustainability efforts made in other, comparable cities. She acknowledged that Compost Cincy was "poorly executed" but said that wasn't the fault of OES.
She praised the city’s recycling program and said the city should support more sustainability efforts, not mock failures. She pointed out that council and the mayor have been willing to support other endeavors that don’t guarantee success.
“We’re going to continue to have conversations about whether the city should support small businesses, and we just invested $5 million in Cintrifuse, which runs start ups,” she said. “Some may work, some may not, some stay in the city and some may leave, but there’s no question we should spend money on that.”
Cranley also faulted other OES initiatives, including the city’s infamously unpopular one garbage can policy.
“This came out of the same organization that said we should have meatless Monday and all kinds of bad ideas,” he said. “It seems like we should not be funding organizations who then end up creating multi-hundred-thousand-dollar cleanups.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn also had pointed questions about the project, but from a different angle.
“If this was a good business, then why is the city having to pay $300,000 to clean up this mess?” he asked. “We need to be able to go after the money that resulted from these people paying for dropping off their waste and the money from the people who were buying the dirt created by that waste. Under our current policy, we don’t have that ability to do it.”
Flynn said the structure of the business and the city’s agreement with it mean that owner Grant Gibson may not be liable for cleanup costs. Gibson told The Cincinnati Enquirer he had sunk about $500,000 into the business.
Meanwhile, Compost Cincy’s website is still live, though it states that the company is shuttered. In a somewhat passive aggressive farewell message, the owners also put some blame on the zoning process for the company's problems, though they say, in the end, location doesn’t matter as much as the attitudes of a composting project's neighbors. The site’s farewell missive seems to claim it was sunk by unfounded fears about composting.
“If our society doesn't move faster towards actually being green and not talking about it, our planet will be 100 percent wrecked of natural resources in the very near future,” the site says. “With that said, make the changes necessary to your life.”