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by Nick Grever 09.21.2015 19 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, New Releases at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Casino Warrior Unleashes ‘Centaur’

Area rockers introduce themselves with heavy debut EP

Casino Warrior is a name that many local music fans aren’t aware of. So far, the quartet (bassist Kevin McNair, vocalist and guitarist Miguel Richards, guitarist Billy Buzek and drummer Chad Wolary) has only played two real shows, one of which was its recent EP release party. But rest assured, based on the strength of the band’s live performance and its new, riff-laden, five-track release, the name will become much more recognizable quickly.

Centaur EP follows in the same vein as other Rock/Metal hybrids that are currently dominating many a longhairs’ playlist. If the likes of Red Fang, Black Tusk, Orange Goblin or old The Sword cause your skull and brain to repeatedly high five, then the Centaur EP is right up your alley. Richards and Buzek’s guitar leads show considerable chops; there are enough riffs in these five songs to warrant several back-to-back play-throughs just to unravel the heavy layers. Guitar nerds will be overjoyed; the rest of us will just bang our heads until we get a nosebleed.

Of course, riffs are great, but unless the floor tremors and eardrums pop, the Metal equation is only halfway completed. That’s where McNair and Wolary come in. McNair’s low-end rumbles through the mix and sets up shop in your chest. Playing this record at a high volume (as if there was any other allowable setting) is liable to shake things off the wall. Beware of any loose china or pictures of grandma that you may have sitting around your sound system. Wolary’s skin work rounds out the quartet and he brings the thunder; at times, it sounds like Zildjian gave the Incredible Hulk a gear sponsorship. And Hulk definitely smashes.

Richards’ vocals walk a fine line between ’70s Rock clean singing and the current-day growls. Each chorus and verse is delivered with a ferocity that makes the lyrics even more hilarious. I cannot wait for more people to get their hands on the album, learn the words, and yell “Horse balls!” when Casino Warrior performs “Centaur” at its next gig. In fact, each song on the EP is as ridiculous as the last. When your subject matter involves chupacabras, pterodactyls and the aforementioned centaurs, things are bound to get a little weird.

Of particular note is the song that Casino Warrior closed its EP release show with — “Pig Roast.” The track starts with a tribal rhythm from Wolary that’s worthy of accompanying a Fury Road war party, along with a bassline gut-punch courtesy of McNair. Shortly thereafter, Richards and Buzek join in with an earworm of a riff and Richards’ beefiest vocal delivery on the record. His ode to our great city demands attention before the band transitions to an extended outro that allows Richards and Buzek to show off their soloing abilities. And, what do you know — they’re amazing at more than just riffing.

As a whole, “Pig Roast” exemplifies what Casino Warrior is capable of. The band has a rhythm section that lays a rock solid foundation of groove upon which the guitars build a temple to the Riff Lords of old. The songs are more than the sum of their parts — and their parts already have quite a few big numbers involved. The guys have created a rare release that is musically serious, but still fun; heavy, but still accessible. 

If you’re a Cincinnati Rock and/or Metal fan, do yourself a favor and jump on the Casino Warrior bandwagon now — it’s about to get much more crowded.

by Nick Swartsell 09.21.2015 19 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noon News and Stuff

Rally remembering police shooting victims draws 100; did weed legalization effort create a biz tax loophole?; Kasich cuts a rug

Good morning all! Hope you're recovering from your Oktoberfest weekend. CityBeat's news team did the Hudy 7k (not the 14k because we're weak), which is basically an Oktoberfest pre-game that involves running some miles and then drinking free beers and eating free cheese coneys and goetta sliders at 9:30 in the morning. It's a good way to get all limbered up for the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, and also a great way to completely incapacitate yourself for an entire Sunday.

Anyway, here’s what’s up today.

• About 100 people, including the families of several unarmed people killed by police in Ohio in the last year, rallied Saturday on the campus of University of Cincinnati to remember Samuel DuBose and protest his death.
DuBose, who was unarmed, was shot July 19 during a routine traffic stop about a mile from campus in Mount Auburn by former UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has since been charged with murder for that shooting. The rally ended with a march to the spot where DuBose was shot. A break-off march down Calhoun Street near UC’s campus resulted in four arrests. Video of that march seems to show a Cincinnati Police officer using a Taser on one marcher. Police have not released the charges against the four arrested during the march.

• By now, you’re probably familiar with ResponsibleOhio, the marijuana-legalization group that has landed an amendment to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. But did you know that the amendment as written might provide a state business tax loophole for businesses involved in selling marijuana? Some business tax experts say the inclusion of the word “local” in a clause within the amendment proposal would allow businesses related to the marijuana effort to forego paying state taxes on flow-through income. The proposal’s 10 grow sites, which would be owned by investors, would have to pay a flat tax on their earnings as set forth by the amendment. So would any marijuana retail stores that spring up from the legalization effort.

The ballot language also stipulates that such businesses would also have to pay any local taxes associated with doing business. But there’s the rub: former Ohio tax commissioner Tom Zaino says “local” in that context can be read legally to exclude state taxes. ResponsibleOhio says skirting those taxes isn’t the intention, and that it included the language to make sure businesses pay all applicable tax obligations, not just municipal ones. The initiative would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana, but it has caused controversy due to the fact that it would only allow 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.

• This has been all over my social media feed, mostly posted by angry Cincy natives. What do you think about this opinion piece from a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who recently moved here from Florida? I have my own feelings, which I guess I can sum up by saying it’s kind of a bizarre and tone-deaf thing to publish. Who comes to a city and after five months calls oneself and one’s cohort “giants in a place that needs us?” Also, who calls entertainment places “nightclubs” these days? I dunno.

There are consistently more rad things going on in this city than I can make it to in any given week. I mean, if I went to all the cool stuff Chase Public and the Comet alone do in a given seven-day stretch I’d be exhausted, and that’s just in Northside. That’s all beside the point, though. The article’s apparent focus (it’s kind of all over the place) is that the city needs to find ways to attract more young professionals, especially minority young professionals. To which I would counter that is not the city’s biggest problem. We have enough young people, especially young people of color, coming up in the city who need more support. Transplants are welcome, but we can’t remake the city according to their wishes when we have a ton of people born and raised here who aren’t getting the opportunities their potential deserves. So yeah, let’s focus on that and then maybe we can build a new nightclub for the YPs who don’t want to pay Austin prices for their next vocational adventure.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich can dance if he wants to, and he did just that Saturday night in Michigan after a GOP conference in which he made a distinctly working class pitch to Republican primary voters. Kasich danced to a Walk the Moon song for about 10 seconds, and, honestly, the results were… not disastrous. He looked slightly cooler than your dad at a wedding reception but less cool than like, someone who can actually dance. That’s a good place for a presidential candidate to be, I guess. Kasich wasn’t exactly setting the floor on fire, but it also looked like he didn’t really care that much about it, which is the true key to dancing.

If Kasich's tax policy was as inoffensive as his moves, well, Ohio would be a better place, that’s for sure. Kasich finished third in a straw poll in Michigan behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Not a bad showing, but Kasich has serious ground to make up before the state’s March 8 primary. The Ohio guv continues to poll low nationally, getting around 2 percent of the vote compared to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s 24 percent.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with your best pitch for a new nightclub in Cincy. My vote? A Miami Vice-themed dance club at The Banks called Sax on the Beach where DJ Kasich spins your young professional 80s soft rock favorites.

by Rick Pender 09.18.2015 21 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
annie fitzpatrick & brent vimtrup in luna gale @ etc - photo ryan kurtz

Stage Door

Actors are shining in several local shows

Actors are a big reason we go to see specific performances, and there are a couple of excellent choices onstage right now as several theaters are kicking off their 2015-2016 seasons. Of particular note is Annie Fitzpatrick, a familiar performer to audiences frequenting productions at Ensemble Theatre. She’s playing Caroline, an over-burdened social worker in Luna Gale. Her character is caught in a custody tug of war involving a baby, the title character. Her immature parents are on one side, caught up in drugs and angry behavior; on the other side is Luna Gale’s well-intentioned grandmother who’s religiously conservative. Fitzpatrick portrays a beleaguered woman trying to do what’s right, but constantly thwarted by the system in which she works. You feel this desperation deep down inside Caroline’s character, in her physical presence, in her exasperated stares and sighs. Fitzpatrick is a marvel to watch. She’s a major factor in my giving this production a Critic’s Pick. (Note for the future: She’ll be onstage next at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Oct. 16-Nov. 7, playing Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman.) Luna Gale continues through Sept. 27. Tickets: 512-421-3555

Another veteran actor is shining at Cincinnati Shakespeare this month. Jeremy Dubin, a member of CSC’s acting company for 16 seasons, is playing the swashbuckling poet Cyrano de Bergerac. The show is sometimes called a heroic comedy, and Dubin handles both parts of that phrase with aplomb. He makes Cyrano larger than life in his generosity and faithfulness, but he plays him with the requisite sense of humor — especially in scenes involving Cyrano’s oversized nose, a convincing prosthetic created for Dubin’s performance. He has excelled in roles both comic and serious; Cyrano draws on both. Read more about this play and Cincy Shakes’ production in my recent column. Tickets: 513-621

One more excellent acting performance worth catching: Caitlin Cohn as 10-year-old Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden at the Cincinnati Playhouse. She’s actually a college student (New York University), but the petite actress is wholly convincing as the ornery, bright and eventually loving orphan who finds the warmth of nature and shares it with her grieving uncle. Cohn is doing an audacious job with a challenging role. Tickets: 513-421-3888

If you were planning to see New Edgecliff Theatre’s production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune this weekend, you need to put it in neutral. Due to some technical delays with NET’s new home at Urban Artifact (1622 Blue Rock Road, Northside) the company is moving the production to a different venue and delaying performances for a week. It’s not scheduled to be presented at Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place, Walnut Hills) opening Sept. 24 and continuing through Oct. 3. NET is contacting people who already had reservations. If you don’t have tickets yet, call now: 888-421-7311

A few quick notes: Showbiz Players, a dependable community theater company that likes satirical shows, is presenting The Rocky Horror Show at the Carnegie in Covington, through Sept. 26. Tickets: 859-957-1940 … Performance Gallery, an avant-garde troupe of performers that’s been a steady contributor to the Cincinnati Fringe, is reprising its production from the 2015 Fringe, Shirtzencockle, at Know Theatre on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. It’s a surreal, magical, ridiculous blind of folk and fairy tales. Tickets: 513-300-5669 … Kate Tombaugh, who studied opera at UC’s CCM (and trained in numerous other places) is presenting her one-woman show, It Just Takes One. It portrays the roller-coaster story of a young woman in her 20s seeking a career in opera while struggling to find a social life. A benefit for the Charitable Care Fund at Children’s Hospital, it’s being presented at St. Thomas Episcopal Church (100 Miami Ave., Terrace Park) on Friday evening at 8 p.m. and in 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

by Nick Swartsell 09.18.2015 22 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_bright ride_photo urban basin bicycle club facebook page

Morning News and Stuff

Drama over off-duty cop with gun in OTR bar; Cincinnati on C-SPAN; Census has good news for Cincy, bad news for Ohio

Heya! Here’s a quick rundown of the news this morning. Just a few links as you head into your Oktoberfest weekend.Think of it as morning news lite. Goes down easy with no bitter aftertaste.

An armed, off-duty officer was asked to leave Over-the-Rhine’s 16-Bit Bar because he was drinking while carrying a concealed weapon, a violation of Ohio law. The officer complied with no drama, but a fellow officer with him has raised a fuss about the incident, and now there's a bit of a battle going on in social media circles about it. Read more here.

• Uh, maybe don’t jump in the Ohio River right now. Bummer. Toxic algae blooms first found upriver in West Virginia in August have caused local nonprofit Green Umbrella to postpone its annual Ohio River Swim due to health concerns.  Since last month, more blooms have been discovered all along the river. The algae can cause everything from nausea to liver damage in humans and animals, so don’t let the dog in the river either. Double bummer. It’s great swimming weather right now, too.

• If you’re like me, you probably have watched a mind-boggling amount of C-SPAN in your life and this next bit of news about Cincinnati being in the spotlight on that channel seems awesome. But you’re probably not like me because I’m super weird and used to watch the nation’s premier outlet for catching Senate hearings, House of Representatives procedural votes and other thrilling events on the regular. (It was for my job, but still, this is probably why I’m single bee-tee-dubs). Anyway, C-SPAN 2 has oh so much more than that thrilling governmental programming and will be featuring multiple programs about Cincinnati’s history as part of the channel’s Cities Tour. The programs air Saturday at noon and Sunday at 2 p.m., perfectly timed to give you an excuse not to go to Oktoberfest. Who needs the city’s biggest drinking and eating event downtown when you can watch a documentary on William Henry Harrison, am I right?

Good news from the U.S. Census about bicycling. Data released yesterday in the Census’ American Community Survey shows that bike commuters are up in Cincinnati. Though they still only made up less 1 percent of all commutes in 2014, cyclists riding to work have increased by a half percentage point over 2013. We also climbed to 39th from 46th out of 70 cities in terms of percentage of bicycle commuters. Welcome to the club, new folks! See you in the streets.

• Now some bad news from the Census. Data shows that more than 1.7 million Ohioans live in poverty, despite gains in the unemployment rate. That’s 16 percent of the state’s population. This poverty disproportionately affects people of color. Nearly 35 percent of Ohio’s black population and 28 percent of its Latino population lives in poverty, according to the Census’ American Community Survey. Just 12 percent of whites do. Read more about the recent Census data here.

And I’m out. Look for me at Oktoberfest. I’ll be the one double fisting dark beers and brats all weekend.

by Staff 09.18.2015 22 days ago
at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend To Do List (9/18-9/20)

Oktoberfest, City Flea, a big Comic Expo and more

Grab a beer at OKTOBERFEST
Prost! Since 1976, people have been coming out in droves to experience the rich German heritage that Cincinnati has to offer via our Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, full of delicious food, live music and plenty of beer. This year’s Oktoberfest — the largest in the nation— kicks off Friday at noon with the Running of the Wieners, a dachshund race on Fountain Square, and opens fully with the Gemuetlichkeit Games afterward. Saturday, Oktoberfest grand marshal and former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson leads tens of thousands in this year’s iteration of the one, the only, The World’s Largest Chicken Dance. But the fun doesn’t end there. Sunday provides fest-goers with the opportunity to witness fierce competitors shove bratwurst in their faces at the Glier’s World Brat Eating Championship. It’s going to be a wunderbar weekend. Friday-Sunday. Free. Fifth Street between Vine and Sentinel, Downtown, oktoberfestzinzinnati.com.

Sean Astin
Photo: Provided 
The Cincinnati Comic Expo features famous sci-fi and fantasy film and TV stars, including Adam West, the original Batman, Robin Lord Taylor, the Penguin from Fox’s Gotham, Ian Ziering from Sharknado (and 90210), Eve Myles from Torchwood and more, plus a ton of comic-book artists, cosplayers and other assorted events. Programming includes panels, sci-fi speed dating, a zombie walk, gaming areas, an “Enchantment Under the Sea”-themed geek prom (à la Back to the Future) and more to get your nerd heart pitter-pattering. Friday-Sunday. Tickets start at $20 for adults; weekend passes and VIP options available. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, cincinnaticomicexpo.com. Read more geeky things in this week's cover story, Revenge of the Nerds
Death Cab for Cutie
Photo: We Are the Rhoads
Remember all your exes at DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE at Riverbend
My three favorite band names inspired by unlikely sources would be: a) Steely Dan, after the chrome-plated dildo in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch; b) Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band name concocted by Monty Python for one of its sketches; and c) Death Cab for Cutie, taken from a song by the critically underappreciated (in the U.S., at least) Bonzo Dog Band from its 1967 debut album, Gorilla. Who said naming a band is hard? Thirty years after the Bonzos dropped their Boogie Woogie Elvis Presley homage, Bellingham, Wash., native Ben Gibbard adopted the song’s title as the name of his solo, Emo-tinged Indie Rock recording project and self-released a demo cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords. The tape’s critical buzz was significant; Gibbard inked a Barsuk Records contract and created an actual performing band with guitarist Chris Walla, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Nathan Good. Death Cab for Cutie plays with Twin Shadow Friday at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion. More info/tickets: riverbend.org.

Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Feel the romance at Cincy Shake's production of CYRANO DE BERGERAC
Edmond Rostand’s play, like its hero, seems to have fallen unexpectedly from the moon. Cyrano de Bergerac was a surprising instant hit in Paris late in 1897. Its premiere received an hour-long standing ovation, and it was subsequently performed for 200 consecutive nights. The heroic comedy about the romantic swordsman and poet was an anomaly in late 19th-century France, when literature was rife with realistic tales by the likes of Émile Zola and Alexandre Dumas, fils. Cyrano de Bergerac is staged at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Oct. 3. More info/tickets: cincyshakes.com.

Beach House
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Get real Dream Pop at BEACH HOUSE
Now more than a decade into its artistic lifespan, Baltimore’s Beach House wanted a shift in approach when 
it came time to write songs for what would become its fifth record, Depression Cherry. Sure, the resulting nine songs still employ the band’s signature hypnotic pull, as singer Victoria Legrand’s dreamy voice and guitarist Alex Scally’s reverberating guitar lines are as front and center as ever. But there’s a more laid-back feel than that of Beach House’s previous effort, 2012’s Bloom. That record’s often driving rhythmic thrust has been muted in favor of an even more languid approach. See Beach House with Jessica Pratt Friday at Bogart's. More info/tickets: bogarts.com.

Marcia Ball
Photo: Mary Keating Bruton
Dance along to some Boogie Woogie piano with MARCIA BALL
Boogie Woogie/Swamp Rock piano pounder Marcia Ball is the poster child for the phrase “born to the craft.” The Texas-born, Louisiana-raised Ball began piano lessons at around the same time she started school and almost immediately felt an affinity for the rolling swing of New Orleans pianists like Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. As her personal style developed, she folded in plenty of muscular Texas Blues to create her own unique and powerful hybrid. Marcia Ball plays Friday at Southgate House Revival. More info/tickets: southgatehouse.com.

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future with BACK TO THE FUTURE: LIVE IN CONCERT
The Cincinnati Pops celebrates the 30th anniversary of the classic sci-fi adventure film Back to the Future with a live orchestral accompaniment. As the film plays on a screen above the Music Hall stage, the Pops will perform Alan Silvestri’s iconic score, live, in time with the movie. 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $25; $10 for kids. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatipops.org.

The City Flea
Photo: thecityflea.com
Buy local at THE CITY FLEA
It’s all about Cincinnati at the City Flea. This monthly outdoor market combines local scenery with local goods to celebrate the local energy of the Queen City. Small businesses and hobbyists alike gather to display their best deals for your dollar. For the fifth year in a row, City Flea showcases a variety of vendors, from vintage dealers and hair stylists to coffee shops and book-sellers. Find anything and everything you need, all while enjoying the great social atmosphere of Washington Park. A live DJ provides music and food trucks serve all day. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, thecityflea.com

Fifty West Brewing Co.
Photo: Provided
Have a lot of local beer at FIFTY FEST
Twenty-five breweries, a ton of food vendors and 10 bands on three stages all adds up to fifty — Fifty Fest 2015, that is. Held at Fifty West Brewing Co., Fifty Fest is a celebratory showcase of the best local and regional beer, food and live music. If you’re not the drinking, eating or dancing type, be sure to check out “Fifty Rest,” a new addition to the fest that provides a more relaxed, low-key atmosphere with spa amenities. Noon-midnight Saturday. $10. Fifty West Brewing Co., 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, fiftywestbrew.com/fiftyfest

Russian Fest
Photo: Provided
It's time for piroshki at RUSSIAN FEST
In celebration of their newly constructed church, St. George Russian Orthodox Church hosts Russian Fest. The event features delicious Russian foods from stuffed cabbage to piroshki, tours of the new church and traditional Russian dances performed by the youth parish. Imported crafts such as nesting dolls, wooden boxes and jewelry will be available along with religious books and icons, children’s activities and live music. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. Free. St. George Russian Orthodox Church, 118 North Lebanon Road, Loveland, stgeorgeroc.org/russianfest

Bluegrass for Babies
Photo: Provided
Raise funds for Cincinnati Children's with BLUEGRASS FOR BABIES
Enjoy a fun day of activities and education at the annual Bluegrass for Babies event, part of the Healthy Roots Foundation’s fundraising efforts for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Centered around Bluegrass music, the event features bands the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and Hickory Robot, as well as headliners Cabinet. Craft beer and food from Dewey’s, Mazunte, Eli’s BBQ and Green BEAN Delivery accompany a variety of interactive games and activities. Learn about diet, safety, art and green living at the various learning stations. Kids entertainment includes magicians, LEGOs, a musical petting zoo, cooking demos and a special performance by Jennifer Ellis. 3-9 p.m. Saturday. $15; $20 at the gate. Sawyer Point, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Cincinnati, healthyrootsfoundation.org.

Shanghai'd for the Month
Photo: Tim Stegmaier
Shanghai’d for the Month: Photographs by Tim Stegmaier can be seen at Iris BookCafé through Saturday, the intriguing result of the Cincinnati photographer’s month in Shanghai in 2013/14. Stegmaier has an individual eye and a seemingly endless interest in how people go about their lives and the urban areas in which those lives take place. His color sense is sharp, and the photographs fascinate not only through their subject matter, but also through their accomplished sense of design. The China most of us unwittingly carry in our minds is outdated; Stegmaier shows us an undeniably 21st-century place and time, underlaid by centuries gone before. Through Saturday. Free. Iris BookCafé, 1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, irisbookcafe.com.

Go back in time with Heritage Village Museum's FALL HARVEST FEST
Head to the Heritage Village Museum’s recreated 1800s living-history town to experience and old-fashioned fall harvest festival. There will be wagon rides, quaint games, a donut-eating competition for kids, cider-pressing and hearth-cooking demos and pumpkin painting, plus people in period-authentic costumes. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $8 adults; $5 children. Heritage Village Museum, 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, heritagevillagecincinnati.org.

'The Secret Garden'
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Find some magic in THE SECRET GARDEN
Blake Robison is the guy who makes the artistic decisions at the Playhouse in the Park, and he’s committed to shows that appeal across generations. He says The Secret Garden is one of his favorite musicals. “So many stories with child protagonists are cutesy and saccharine. Not so in The Secret Garden,” he says. Mary Lennox, 10, is a selfish, spoiled orphan in Victorian England put in the care of an unhappy uncle in a remote British manor. In the midst of unhappiness and loneliness, a secret garden becomes a place of healing for several characters. It’s a powerful show, full of deep, complex emotions and great music. Through Oct. 3. $30-$85. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com

Luna Gale
Photo: Ryan Kurtz
See real drama onstage in LUNA GALE
Ensemble Theatre doesn’t pull any punches with the opener for its 30th season. Artistic director D. Lynn Meyers is passionate about shows that tell us about the world in which we live, and Luna Gale is a tough but necessary reminder about how hard it is to do the right thing. Annie Fitzpatrick turns in another memorable ETC performance, this time as a caring but overextended social worker trying to deal with a baby caught in a tug-of-war between 19-year-old parents with drug issues and a religiously judgmental grandmother. No heroes, no villains — and no easy answers in this award-winning drama. Through Sept 27. $28-$44. Ensemble Theatre, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-3555, ensemblecincinnati.org

Ohio Renaissance Festival
Photo: Will Thorpe Photography
Grab a turkey leg at the OHIO RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
The Ohio Renaissance Festival is back and bringing fall weekends filled with costumes, turkey legs, mulled mead, jousting, games, glass-blowing demonstrations, choirs, crafts and tarot readings inside a 30-acre, recreated 16th-century village. This weekend is opening weekend, so tickets for adults are buy-one-get-one, and kids under 12 get in free. Be sure to check the website for themed weekends and different deals. Nerds of all kinds welcome — just remember that any medieval weapons you might bring need to be tied in a sheath at all times. 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (and Labor Day). Through Oct. 25. $21.95 adult; $9.95 child; $119.95 season pass. 10542 E. State Route 73, Waynesville, renfestival.com

Take a covered wagon ride at the OLD WEST FEST
If you have a pair of cowboy boots laying around that you’ve been meaning to break out, you’re in luck — Old West Fest is back for its eighth year, featuring an authentic recreated Old West Dodge-City-style town, with gold panning, covered-wagon rides, kids activities, live entertainment (including trick riding and a saloon show) and more. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Oct. 18. $12 adults; $6 ages 6-12; free under 12. 1449 Greenbush Cobb Road, Williamsburg, oldwestfestival.com.

by Kerry Skiff 09.17.2015 22 days ago
at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
a yart shopper chats with an artist

Beyond the Books

YART: The Art Yardsale at the Campbell County Public Library's Newport Branch

As technology advances, we constantly revisit our old resources to determine their relevance. Perhaps one of the most common debates is if libraries are a thing of the past. Sure, the quiet atmosphere with thousands of books is soothing, but is it really necessary when most, if not all, of its services can be found in a Google search?

I, and many others like me, say yes. To be clear, I’m a young twentysomething who’s as tied to her smartphone as anyone else, but I believe libraries are an essential and irreplaceable community establishment. Books aside, libraries offer so many services that it would take 10 community organizations to equal.

“The library is here for [the community] and literally does a little bit of everything,” says Jill Liebisch, adult/teen services programmer for the Newport branch of the Campbell County Public Library. “We do everything from job fairs to learning how to knit and crochet to the YART [Art Yardsale] to one-on-one computer and technology training.”

To explore just how relevant public libraries really are in this digital age, I’m exploring one service or program each week and evaluating its impact on me as a resident and on the community at large.

My first event was YART: The Art Yardsale, hosted by the Newport library. YART showcased artists from around the Cincinnati community in a creative yard sale, where jewelry makers, sketch artists, painters, photographers, glass blowers, sculptors and scrapbookers sold their goods at affordable prices.

Liebisch has organized the event for the last two years. “We kind of came up with the idea that we wanted it to be students and people who had never had a chance to sell their artwork before,” she says. “We had so many students and first-timers come and display and sell their artwork…they got to make contacts and kind of have a little art show of their own.”

During my time there, YART kept up a steady stream of traffic, despite the constant dark clouds hinting at rain. I joined the handful weaving through the aisles of jewelry, paintings, photography, sketches and paper arts, taking time to chat with the artists.

Nancy Howes told me about her fantasy-inspired jewelry made from copper, poly clay and paper. She’s been making jewelry off and on for the last 20 years and used to have a shop in Bellevue. “I do these craft fairs every once in a while,” she says. “It’s fun to get out and hear the people and visit with them.”

Howes’ son, Chris, sat next to her, behind a table of ceramic faces. A professional sculptor, Howes designs The Grotesquerie, his collection of hand-sculpted faces and figures. “I make grotesques, in the classic sense of caricatures and grotesque faces,” he says, looking over his table of odd expressions.

The wind spread around the constant aroma of his incense burners, shaped like fish and funny gnomes. “They just sort of happened, whatever comes out comes out,” he says, joking about the figures. “It surprises me sometimes.”

After several passes among the tables, I ended up with a personalized picture album, small watercolor painting, a pair of earrings and an assortment of paper tags, not to mention the fun of chatting with local creatives. Melissa Huber, who sold me the earrings, remarked on how useful she’s found the public library. Huber said she and her mother attend the Friday night movies, and Huber herself has learned to knit and intends to learn fly fishing, all through their local branch.

After a few hours at the YART sale, I walked away with great gifts for family at prices a broke twentysomething can afford. It was probably one of the most satisfying shopping trips I’ve ever made, and I can’t think of a better way to invest in a community.

by Nick Swartsell 09.17.2015 23 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Group calls for Cranley recall; weed legalization group scores legal victory on ballot language; Ohio job market recovering, wages... not so much

Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today.

First off, you should check out this week's CityBeat news feature about how the feds are working with a Cincinnati neighborhood to help preserve diversity and affordability there. I think you'll find it fascinating. As more and more folks discover how cool it is to live in the urban parts of Cincinnati, demand has increased for housing and services in some of the city's coolest neighborhoods. Northside is no stranger to that dynamic, and with new apartment buildings and businesses going in there, the community risks some of the downsides of all that development — a loss of diversity and waning affordability for low- and moderate-income residents. But the Northside Community Council is taking steps to combat those problems with some consulting help from the EPA, of all agencies. Why the EPA? Read more here.

• Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble yesterday announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next half decade. The company will do so, according to P&G Vice President of Global Sustainability Len Sauers, by focusing more on renewable energy and taking innovative steps like generating steam with nutshells and sawdust. The new target is an increase over the company’s previous goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent. The company has cited concern for the environment as one driver for the goal, but, of course, it will also be good for business, they say, cutting costs and making production more efficient. Seems like business stuff can only really be green one way if it’s green the other, if you catch my drift.

• A group pushing to recall Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will meet later this month in Clifton. The group, started sometime around Sept. 10, currently has about 230 followers on Facebook and about 40 people confirmed to attend its Sept. 29 event at the Clifton branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library.  “With the most recent firing of Cincinnati Police Chief Blackwell citizens have had enough of a mayor who has put major corporations above citizen interests,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “Since John Cranley has taken office he has disregarded the public and forced his agenda on the public with no regard for the Democratic process.”

It’s unclear if a mayoral recall is even possible under municipal law. State laws allow for recall elections, but Cranley’s office claims that Ohio Supreme Court decision means that recalls can only happen if city laws expressly make them possible. But the city’s charter is mum on recalls and the matter would probably have to be decided in court. If a court decided that recalls are not permitted under the charter, supporters of a recall effort would have to pass a ballot initiative allowing them first.

• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio won a legal battle yesterday after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that ballot language about the group’s proposed amendment to the state’s constitution was misleading. That language was submitted by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, an opponent of marijuana legalization in the state. The court says sections describing how marijuana can be sold, how much marijuana a person can grow privately and the possibility for additional commercial grow sites must be amended to be more accurate. However, the win wasn’t total. ResponsibleOhio supporters were also challenging the title of the ballot initiative put forward by Husted, which contained the word “monopoly.” The court ruled that word can stay. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal has been controversial. It would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor, but would limit commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.

• While Ohio’s job market is edging back toward its pre-recession levels, wages have remained stagnant, a new report by think tank Policy Matters Ohio says. The state has 0.7 percent fewer jobs than it did in 2007 in contrast to the nation’s 2.5-percent increase in jobs during that time. But the real worry is that the state’s median wage adjusted for inflation, $16.05 an hour, is at one of the lowest levels it’s been in more than three decades. That’s 5 percent less than the national rate. The study highlights a number of continuing problems for Ohio’s economy and says the state’s sluggish economic growth is impacting low-wage earners most heavily.

• Finally, perhaps you watched the reality TV event of the season last night and have some thoughts. Or maybe you skipped the second GOP primary debate in order to preserve your sanity and faith in our fine country. Either way, I’ma tell you about it. A brief rundown: Donald Trump trumped it up and looks to stay in the lead among GOP hopefuls. Former corporate exec Carly Fiorina took the Donald to the mat a few times over Trump’s comments about her face, though, and that was kind of awesome. Dr. Ben Carson continued talking very quietly, entrancing primary voters who like a quiet conservative who says little of substance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continued to illustrate why he’s a mystifyingly stubborn presence near the top of the polls, saying his brother GW kept America safe somehow.

And where were our local guys? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did manage to stop bickering with the Donald long enough to offer up some substantive thoughts about foreign policy and the U.S. war on drugs, probably scoring some points with the nation’s not-insubstantial libertarian base. Ohio Gov. John Kasich stayed the slow and steady course he’s charted, presenting himself as the pragmatic moderate in a room full of loony ideologues. That might come in handy later, but it makes for boring reality TV at the moment. Anyway, here are some links to articles fact-checking candidates’ statements (that’s cute… as if their statements were in some way designed to be factual at all) and some pundits who said some things about the debate that probably don’t matter at all because the debates are farce and pundits like Dave Weigel’s thoughts on the debates are a farce about a farce. But it’s all a fun game to watch, right? Right.

I’m out! Later. Catch me on Twitter or send me emails about how awesomely surreal our political system is, and your reactions to this horrifying fashion development.

by Tony Johnson 09.16.2015 23 days ago
at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
universal pictures

Spoonful of Cinema: The Visit

The Visit is a change-up for M. Night Shyamalan. Kind of. The man notorious for refusing to make a movie that doesn’t have a massive twist, usually in the final few moments of the film, has brought us Academy Award-nominated The Sixth Sense, but he has also brought us Razzie-nominated films like The Happening and (gulp) After Earth. So when he decided to try to get back to his roots of suspense and horror and away from his misadventures in big budget nonsense, I decided I would take a flier.

The premise surrounding The Visit is as straightforward and crisp as vintage Shaymalan could get. Two grandchildren, Becca and Tyler, armed with digital cameras, go to visit their never-met grandparents and things get a little… spooky. Grandpa is wildly paranoid. Grandma wanders around at night, sometimes on all fours, sometimes scratching the wall the way a housecat would a scratching post. Grandma gets a kick out of having Becca climb in the oven — “all the way in” — to clean it.

Of course with Shyamalan, it can’t be all that simple. That would be too fun to watch. There’s a Shyamalan-trademark family drama needlessly bubbling underneath the otherwise self-explanatory event. Becca and Tyler’s mother, played by Kathryn Hahn, eloped against her parents’ will only to be ditched by her husband once Tyler, the younger of the siblings, was born. It feels like a cheap way to get us to fear for the kids’ fates, and feels even more like a waste of my time in the theater. Shyamalan really lays the family-love on thick throughout, doing his damnedest to get us to pray to whatever we believe in that the grandparents are only very strange, somewhat sick elderly folk and not the perhaps murderous plotters looking to claim vengeance on their daughter’s rebellious days that we can’t help but suspect.

Speaking of trying to get us to like the characters, I really have to wonder what in the world I was supposed to like about Tyler, the tween-ish boy counterpart to his much more likable older sister, Becca. Tyler is annoying. I don’t like his voice, I don’t like how clever he thinks he is and I don’t like that he raps about cake. He drives me nuts. I really can’t understate how obnoxious this freaking kid is, and I remember thinking to myself very honestly, “Please, if only one of these kids makes it out of the visit alive, take Tyler.”

While I imagine Shyamalan was trying to make the kids a sort of duality in the sense that one is female and modest while the other is male and blurts whatever is on his immature mind, M. Night really just makes one kid seem like an angel and the other seem like that accumulation of snot you get in your nose (sometimes only one nostril, now that’s the worst) overnight when you have the flu. To all you Louis C.K. fans out there, Tyler is essentially my Jizanthapus. He’s a kid, and I shouldn’t despise him, but… I totally despise and I won’t lose a second of sleep over it. For all I know, young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould — unfortunate enough to be cast as Tyler — has a bright career ahead of him. If he does, this performance will be that embarrassing moment he doesn’t want brought up in interviews. The worst part is, this isn’t his fault. Shyamalan really went to great lengths to create one of the lamest characters of the year, and perhaps of his career (and that is really saying something).

But after we get past the fact that the movie is split three-quarters the way of solid horror flick, one-quarter sappy family drama and after we put up with Tyler’s painful inclination to rap about nonsense off-beat in random moments, we are still forced to come to grips with the found-footage direction style of the film. No longer a fresh way to frame a horror flick, the found-footage approach is honestly executed with a surprising volume of youthful energy from the veteran filmmaker behind the cameras (all two of them). The Blair Witch Project may have popularized (and perhaps immediately perfected) the style for scare-tactics all the way back in 1999 (ironically the same year Shyamalan popularized himself with The Sixth Sense) but the method seems to still have something to offer the world of horror films.

The “jump scares” are tastefully sparse and truly give audiences the surprised shouts we crave heading into a theater for a scary movie like The Visit. I tend to be more impressed with the “slow-burn” scares that push horror films into the realm of classics, and while The Visit offers enough paranoia to keep us in the theater, it also falls flat on its face often enough to be make us raise an eyebrow. I found myself laughing every three or four times I was supposed to be shaking in my seat. That’s not a good formula for a good horror film. While I’m on the subject, let me just be clear: This is not a good any-kind-of film, and it basically derails its own formula.

When a film has one half of a protagonist duo of grandkids that is utterly unlikable and one half of an antagonistic duo of grandparents makes you chuckle when you know you’re supposed to be screaming, the movie doesn’t come out on top. It comes out low (but not the lowest) on the Shayamalan scale, but with a much more bitter taste than most of his failures. There’s a good movie somewhere in The Visit. Perhaps this one is on the editor, but I’ve been too disappointed too many times by M. Night to believe anyone but the writer/director deserves most of my negative feelings toward the horror flick. While The Happening and After Earth were downright disastrous implosions, The Visit has just enough redeeming qualities to keep us generally on board, somewhat intrigued and mostly entertained. But that’s not what Shyamalan wants us to feel. It’s not what I want either, but it’s what we got. If you’ve been holding out for a Shyamalan comeback, this may not be the trip you want to take a chance on. 

Grade: D

by Natalie Krebs 09.16.2015 24 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy searches for a new police chief; Buddy the marijuana mascot hits college campuses; Kasich gears up for second debate

Good morning, Cincy! Hang in there: We're halfway through the week and crawling closer and closer to Oktoberfest this weekend. Here are some headlines to help pass some of the time until your next beer.

City Manager Harry Black, who fired Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday, said he will look high and low, near and far, and leave no stone unturned to find Cincinnati's new chief. Ok, well, he actually said that he will do a national search as well as post the position internally within the next two weeks to find the replacement. Mayor John Cranley has said that he supports the interim Police Chief and former Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac for the job. But the call goes to the city manager, who was given the power to hire and fire the police chief in 2001.

• Better late than never--the streetcars are finally coming. CAF USA, the Elmira, N.Y. company building the cars has said the first car will arrive by Oct. 30. The rest are arriving between the end of this year and early next year. The cars were supposed to arrive mid-September for the opening day, but the company pushed back the date due to manufacturing issues.

• ResponsibleOhio's executive director Ian James and Secretary of State Jon Husted are still going head to head over the Nov. 3 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Husted has now claimed that ResponsibleOhio knew about the fraudulent signatures on its initial petition to get the measure on the ballot. James denies this. But Responsible Ohio charging full speed ahead to get the initiative passed. They've recently unveiled "Buddy the Marijuana mascot" at college campus to get the youth vote--a move so wild that they've attracted the attention of Late Show host Stephen Colbert. You can watch his segment here.

• Gov. John Kasich will take the stage again tonight for the second GOP debate on CNN. Things have changed since the first Fox News debate a few weeks ago. Then, Kasich barely made it into the top eight contenders to debate with front runners Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. This time around, Kasich didn't have to sneak into the debate. According to recent polls, Kasich has moved from the tail end to the middle. He's still way behind leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but he's ahead of Walker, who has taken a rough tumble from the top to Kasich's former position. Some speculate that Walker, who turned Wisconsin into a right-to-work state, might launch some attacks at Kasich for backing off an anti-union movement, but the main target will still probably be Trump. 

• Trump isn't just the target of fellow GOP contenders. Tuesday morning, conservative group the Club for Growth launched a series of advertisements attacking Trump calling him "the worst kind of politician." It seems the group has some issues with statements Trump has made on supporting higher taxes on capital gains, healthcare and rejecting cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, which could ultimately be helping Kasich climb the polls. According to a Politico story on Monday, some Wall Street executives are afraid of a Trump presidency and have instead shoveled money towards Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kasich.

My email is nkrebs@citybeat.com, and I'd love to hear from you!


by Nick Swartsell 09.15.2015 25 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

GE to Cincy: It's not you, it's the GOP; families of those killed by police to rally in Cincy; Ohio, Kentucky pretty miserable, study finds

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the news on this amazing fall day. No, seriously, it’s pretty much ideal outside right now so take a minute to go outside for a smoke break or to get some coffee or do some jumping jacks or pull ups on a street sign or something. I’ll wait.

OK. Back? Here we go. Maybe you’ve heard about the fact that our fair city was a’courtin one heck of a catch recently, but came away heartbroken. The object of our affection is really, really rich, into engineering and science stuff and already has a pretty close relationship with us. But when we tried to take that relationship to the next level, we were spurned because our elders have some conflicting political viewpoints. 

I’m talking about the fact that General Electric won’t be locating its corporate headquarters in Ohio at least in part because four high-level GOP politicians in the state oppose renewing the authority of the federal Export-Import Bank, which underwrites loans for companies that do lots of exporting. GE, which already has more employees in Ohio than any other state, does more exporting than any other company here. U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both hailing from the Cincinnati area, as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich and tea party firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan from Urbana all oppose the so-called Ex-Im Bank, saying that the private market could do a better job financing the corporate export game. 

It’s a little like having your crush over to your house when you’re a teenager and then your dad starts talking about the constitution while wearing a Gadsen flag T-shirt, only there are like, four dads and your crush employs thousands upon thousands of people. Hard to know who to root for here. On the one hand, I feel like corporations should get federal money exactly never and shouldn’t be throwing their political weight around. On the other hand, well, tea party nuttiness. Other politicians, including most Democrats in the state, support the Ex-Im bank, which is the flip side ideologically of what you’d think it would be. Kind of a lame situation all around.

• Western & Southern Financial Group President and CEO John Barrett discussed the company’s plans for a whole corner of downtown Cincinnati yesterday at a gathering for real-estate professionals. Barrett outlined plans for new restaurants, rooftop bars and other attractions in the area around Lytle Park in downtown’s southeastern corner, near where the company’s headquarters are located. Among the attractions will be a luxury hotel in the building that formerly housed the Anna Louise Inn, a women’s shelter, for more than 100 years. Western & Southern’s real estate arm, Eagle Realty, purchased that building after protracted legal wrangling with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which runs the shelter now located in Mount Auburn. I could tell you more about the awesome swanky rooftop bars and glitzy restaurants planned for the area, but I’d rather just pose a question: Since when does the CEO of a corporation, even one who’s been in the neighborhood since 1901, get to plan what a big chunk of the city looks like? I could go further but I’m just going to leave that right there because I’m a reporter and we don’t actually have opinions.

• Will the media be allowed to continue covering a trial involving a racially charged confrontation in June between police and pool-goers in Fairfield? That’s up for debate. A 12-year-old and 15-year-old are charged in Butler County Courts with resisting arrest in connection with that incident. The 12-year-old is also charged with assaulting an officer, and the 15-year-old with disorderly conduct. Attorneys for the juveniles have requested that press be barred from the ongoing court proceedings. The incident caught national attention after cell phone video emerged of the family in question being asked to leave the pool and subsequently being arrested. They and their supporters say police used inappropriate force during that incident and that their removal stems from the fact they are black. They’ve asked that charges against the children be dropped. Fairfield Police, however, say they were justified in their use of force and will be proceeding with the charges against the children.

• A meeting yesterday of Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police yielded a vote of confidence in CPD’s interim chief Eliot Isaacs. That’s a big turnaround from the meeting's original purpose, which was to express no confidence in now-ousted chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Isaac is an insider with the department, having spent more than 25 years with CPD. Officers within the department had said morale was at a very low point due to communication issues, outdated equipment and low staffing. Those complaints came as controversy swirled around Blackwell, who garnered praise for his approach to community relations but criticism for his handling of internal affairs within the department. Blackwell’s supporters maintain he was fighting impossible headwinds within CPD as a chief hired from the outside against the wishes of incoming mayor John Cranley.

• Local families of those killed in police shootings will rally this Saturday at the University of Cincinnati, then march to the spot in Mount Auburn where Samuel Dubose was shot and killed earlier this summer. That rally will start at 6 p.m. in front of the UC police center at 51 W. Corry St. The families of Samuel Dubose, Samantha Ramsey, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III are expected to attend and address the crowd before marching.

• Finally, are you happy right now? Like, actually happy? According to a new study released by finance website WalletHub.com, the chances you answered yes to that question are much lower here in Ohio or Kentucky than in many other states. Wallethub’s recent ranking of happiest and least-happy states did not look favorably on the Tri-state. Ohio ranked 43 out of the 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Kentucky ranked 49. Ouch. At least Indiana ranked a little higher at 38. The study took into account depression rates, sleep surveys, suicide rates, average work hours, income growth, unemployment rates and other factors to give a rough indication of the happiest places in the U.S. Number one? Utah, of all places. Number two was Minnesota, somehow, which you’ll have to ask CityBeat reporter Natalie Krebs about, since she hails from the land of cold-ass winters and weird accents. Just kidding Natalie, I’m sure it’s great up there.