CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[National Endowment for the Arts Offers Grant to CAC]]>

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will make a $50,000 grant to Contemporary Arts Center to help mount a survey exhibition of Korean-American artist Do Ho Suh in 2016. The CAC will also produce a catalog on the artist.

In a press release, CAC Director Raphaela Platow said, “We are delighted to have received this recognition from the NEA, it is a true vote of confidence to the quality of our curatorial program and the continued strength of this institution, as one of the oldest non-collecting contemporary art institutions in the country.”

Do Ho Suh: Passage, curated by the CAC's Steven Matijcio, is set for Feb. 12 to Sept. 11 of next year.  Suh, who moved to the U.S. in 1993, makes life-size fabric replicas of his homes. The CAC expects that, in Passage, his work will imaginatively complement Zaha Hadid's bold architecture.

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<![CDATA[WATCH: Freekbass’ “Everybody's Feelin' Real” Music Video]]>

The new music video from veteran Cincinnati funkateer (and relentless road dog) Freekbass recently appeared online. The clip for “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real” — the slinky, head-boppin’ Pop/Funk title track from Freekbass’ most recent full-length release — shows a variety of scenes and special guests to the viewer through a smartphone screen (fitting, as more and more people seem to be viewing life in that manner anyway). 

Though endearingly short on special effects, the clip is still wildly engaging, particularly as you play “spot the cameo.” The video features some big-name special guests from the world of music, including Mike Gordon of Phish, Ryan Stasik of Umphrey's McGee, George Porter Jr. of The Meters, Stefan Lessard of Dave Matthews Band, Bernie  Worrell from P-Funk and Talking Heads, Steve Molitz from Particle, Zion Godchaux of BoomBox, Cincinnati native Alan Light (music journalist and former editor of Vibe and Spin magazines) and Bigg Robb from Zapp. Cincinnatians and baseball fans will also notice a very familiar face — the Hit King himself, Pete Rose, pops up to sing/lip sync part of a chorus. 


Click here to stream/purchase Everybody's Feelin' Real. It should be Freekbass’ last self-released effort for a while; earlier this year he announced that the respected indie label Ropeadope will release his next album



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<![CDATA[In First Veto, Cranley Nixes OTR Parking Plan]]> Mayor John Cranley today vetoed a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine that would have converted 400-450 of the neighborhood's 1,200 spots into permitted parking for residents.

Democrats on council passed the plan 5-4 before Cranley killed the deal.It's Cranley's first veto since he took office in 2013 and the first mayoral veto of a council action in years. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Mayor Charlie Luken last vetoed a council-passed ordinance in 2005, though Mark Mallory also vetoed one in 2011.

"In the interests of basic fairness to all Cincinnatians, I am vetoing this Over-the-Rhine residential parking plan," Cranley said in a statement. "Cincinnati taxpayers from all neighborhoods paid for the public streets in OTR and, therefore, all Cincinnatians deserve an opportunity to park on the streets they paid to build and maintain."

Republican council members Amy Murray, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn opposed the permit plan, as did Charterite Councilman Kevin Flynn.

Flynn cited a clause in streetcar legislation that allows developers to forgo normal parking requirements for new development for buildings that are 600 feet from streetcar stops. That provision works at odds with creating permitted spots for residents, he said, because the assumption was that the streetcar would make cars less necessary in the neighborhood.

"Either you need more parking or you don't," he said in council.


For Cranley, the fight over parking is more about revenue. In past weeks, the mayor has touted an alternate plan that would have set the price for parking permits at a yet-undetermined market rate. That plan didn't make it out of committee.
Cranley initially suggested a $300 charge for each parking permit, but backed off that idea for a market-rate cost. He’d like to see the extra revenue used to shore up a $600,000 streetcar operating deficit. That deficit came about due to revised estimates on rider fares and advertising revenues.

After months of wrangling, an agreement on a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine seemed to be in sight Monday as Cincinnati City Council’s Neighborhood Committee passed a version of a plan drawn up by Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilman Chris Seelbach that would charge residents $108 a year for a parking pass.
The proposed fee for a permit was the second-highest in the nation behind famously packed-in San Francisco, though the cost would be subsidized for low-income residents.

Seelbach registered his displeasure on Facebook following the veto.


Seelbach, Mann and other supporters argue that as OTR gets more popular, parking has become much more scarce, making it difficult for those who live in the neighborhood to find parking. Over-the-Rhine Community Council President Ryan Messer spoke to Council advocating for the parking plan. He expressed disappointment at mayor's veto.

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<![CDATA[Rescheduled “Tunes & Blooms” Concerts Begin Tonight ]]>

 Every April, the Cincinnati Zoo presents an every-Thursday concert series called “Tunes & Blooms,” which showcases some of the finest local bands in Greater Cincinnati (as well as the Zoo’s Botanical Garden in full bloom). But for this year’s series, Mother Nature had different plans, as April showers brought cancelled concerts on April 2, 9 and 16. 

The free concerts have been rescheduled and begin this evening (Wednesday) with local Folk/Americana favorites Hickory Robot and The Tillers. The next rescheduled date is tomorrow (Thursday) and features another pair of Folk dynamos — Jake Speed and the Freddies and Shiny and the Spoon. The final rescheduled show takes place May 13 with the fantastic Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle and Honey & Houston


The music begins at 6 p.m. all three evenings and runs until 8:30 p.m. There is no admission charge to get into the zoo after 5 p.m. (there is a $9 fee is you’d like to park in the zoo’s parking lot). Click here for more info. 


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning y’all. Let’s do this news thing real quick.

$25 million to get low-income Cincinnati students into a better education sounds great, doesn’t it? Absolutely. But there are questions about just such a proposal, which is being touted by a group of area business leaders and educators. The group, which includes the Haile Foundation, the Cincinnati Business Committee and the Farmer Foundation, wants to boost the number of seats at high-performing area schools from what they’ve determined is 5,500 right now to 10,000 in five years and 20,000 in 10. Right now, a little less than half of Cincinnati’s 35,000 students in public or charter schools attend low-performing schools, and only about 5,500 attend high performing schools. So the plan sounds great, right? Well, there are critics. $15 million of the money will be spent creating new schools in the Cincinnati area, and those will most likely be charter schools, which have a very spotty record here in Ohio. Detractors like former City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham, now with the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition, say Cincinnati Public Schools have an approach that works, and that the city doesn’t need more charters. CPS, meanwhile, says it’s on board with the proposal. The district may even be a partner in the charter schools created by the venture. The nascent education group, which calls itself an “education accelerator” has yet to pick a name or a CEO, and still has about $10 million to raise to carry out the plan.

• More controversy surrounding Cincinnati’s long-time riverfront project The Banks. Yesterday here we talked about how Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman is being ousted from economic development matters. Sigman wrote a letter raising questions about whether the county should change developers on the project, saying that the lead developer, Atlanta-based Carter and Associates, has taken longer than expected to find a major hotel tenant at the site. Yesterday, an Enquirer reporter was barred from a meeting of the Joint Banks Steering Committee, which is appointed by city and county officials, according to the paper. Those meetings were declared public after a contentious fight back in 2008 about their private nature. The steering committee points out that government meetings can happen in private when no votes are being taken, and says there were no decisions made at the meeting. It’s important to know what’s happening with the steering committee, however, since it helps decide how millions in tax dollars are spent. Officials with the steering committee say Sigman’s ouster from development affairs was not discussed at the meeting.

New retail is coming to Over-the-Rhine, and … sorry, I lost interest. All the stores sound really boring and well out of my price range and the price ranges of many long-time residents in the neighborhood. But hey, that’s just me. One of the stores sells something called technical cashmere. The others are home décor and fashion-oriented. The upside is that the four new retail spots will add to the city’s tax base, and at least none of them are chain stores; Chipotle and Starbucks are reportedly interested in OTR spots, but it hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, if you’re a shopper, check that out. Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for a decently-priced, well-stocked grocery store and a Laundromat.

• Here’s a place that is much more my speed: Mayor John Cranley yesterday dropped by Camp Washington Chili in, uh, Camp Washington to celebrate its 75th anniversary and announce that the corner of Hopple Street and Colerain Ave. where the nationally-renowned diner is located will be named after proprietor Johnny Johnson. Johnson came to the U.S. from Greece in 1951 and eventually bought the place, which was founded by his uncle. Since then, they’ve been serving up really, really good Cincinnati-style chili, double deckers and tons of other great diner food. I’ve spent many a late, late night after playing or watching live music hanging out at Camp Washington; here’s to another 75.

• Finally, the latest Quinnipiac University polls on the GOP presidential nomination race have come out of early primary state Iowa. Like the last couple polls, they’ don’t look so great for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich is polling at just 2 percent against big GOP rivals. The bigger national story, however, is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s showing. Bush, who was a presumed frontrunner just a week or two ago, took a pounding, with 45 percent of GOP respondents saying they viewed him unfavorably. Only 39 percent said they viewed him favorably. Bush got just five percent of the overall vote in the polling. The big winner was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who polled at 21 percent, 8 points higher than his nearest competitors Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Walker, if you recall, led an effort to repeal bargaining rights for state employees in 2011. Sound familiar? Kasich did much the same that year. The difference is, Walker stuck to his guns through a recall election, while Kasich was chastened by the deafening roar of Ohio voters, who overwhelmingly passed a ballot provision repealing our state’s version of the law. So, is Scott Walker going to be the GOP nominee? Not quite. There’s still a long road to Cleveland, and plenty of opportunity for big gaffes from the Republican crowd.

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<![CDATA[Mother's Day Brunch]]>
If you aren't making brunch for mom at home, take her somewhere nice. Here are some local restaurants hosting Mother's Day meals. Call ahead to make reservations. 

Holiday Jazz Buffet — A Mother’s Day brunch buffet, featuring a carving station, breakfast egg bake, pastries, pasta and more, plus live Jazz music. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $23.95. Washington Platform Saloon and Restaurant, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, 513-421-0110, washingtonplatform.com.

BB Riverboats Mother’s Day Cruise — Cruise along the Ohio River and enjoy either brunch or dinner, which includes a souvenir photo. 1-3 p.m. brunch; 5:30-7:30 p.m. dinner. $43; $22 children. 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, Ky., bbriverboats.com/mothers_day_cruise.html.

Django’s Mother-Loving Brunch — Django Western Taco reinstitutes brunch for Mother’s Day. Reservations for parties of 6 or more. Will accept call ahead seating. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 4046 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-3664, facebook.com/djangonorthside.

Mother's Day Brunch at Capital Grille — A multi-course brunch menu with choice of soup or salad, entree, dessert and a signature cocktail. $49. 3821 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-351-0814, thecapitalgrille.com.

Mother's Day Brunch at deSha's — Brunch items include French toast casserole, fried chicken and waffles, quiche Lorraine, country fried steak sliders and options for kids. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Prices vary. 11320 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-247-9933, deshas.com/cincinnati/menu/mothers-day.

Mother's Day Brunch at Grandview Tavern and Grille — Brunch menu with complimentary mimosas. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $25.95; $11.95 children. 2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-8439, grandviewtaverngrille.com.

Mother’s Day at Henke Winery — Treat mom to lunch or dinner and wine at Henke. Noon-6 p.m. 3077 Harrison Ave., Westwood, 513-662-9463, henkewine.com

Mother’s Day Brunch at Jag’s Steak and Seafood — A special brunch and dinner menu, plus kids craft area and sundae bar. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. 5980 West Chester Road, West Chester, jags.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at La Petite France — A fine French buffet featuring an omelet and crepe station. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $33.95; $15.95 children. 3177 Glendale Milford Road, Evendale, 513-733-8383.

Mother’s Day Brunch at La Poste — Brunch plus a local artist trunk show. 3410 Telford St., Clifton, 513-281-3663, laposteeatery.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Metropole — Executive chef Jared Bennett treats moms to a three-course brunch with highlights like Avocado Toast with scrambled eggs, Blue Oven bread and Aleppo pepper. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. $29. 21c Museum Hotel, 609 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-578-6660.

Mother’s Day Brunch at The Palace — A buffet featuring everything from an omelet station and assorted mini quiches to carved prime rib. Desserts prepared by the in-house pastry chef. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $49.95; $39.95 seniors; $29.95 children. 601 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-3000, palacecincinnati.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Park + Vine — Brunch includes vegan biscuits and gravy, roasted potatoes, tofu scramble, gluten-free pancakes, O Pie O, coffee and tea, plus every mom gets one Hudson Valley Seed Library seed packet with brunch purchase. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275, parkandvine.com.

Mother’s Day at Parkers Blue Ash Tavern — Buffet goes from lunch to dinner, switching to dinner items at 3 p.m. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. $34.95; $11.95 children. 4200 Cooper Road, Blue Ash, 513-891-8300, parkersblueash.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at The Phoenix — Includes a variety of breakfast and lunch options, including a mini dessert bar. 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $34; $15 children. 812 Race St., Downtown, 513-721-8901, facebook.com/thephoenixcincinnati. 

Mother’s Day at Red Roost Tavern — Located inside downtown’s Hyatt, the restaurant offers a full brunch menu and buffet, featuring an omelet station, seafood display, carving station and more. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $49; kids 1-12 pay half their age. 131 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-354-4025. 

Mother’s Day Brunch at Steinhaus — Celebrate mom with a taste of Germany. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 6415 Dixie Highway, Florence, Ky., 859-371-3000, steinhausrestaurant.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at The Summit — Brunch buffet includes omelets, eggs Benedict, prime rib, Belgian waffles, mixed grill, a bloody mary bar and champagne. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, facebook.com/thesummit.MCI.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Trio — Brunch includes Scottish salmon, assorted egg dishes, baked Virginia ham, pastries and more. 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $29.95; $15.95 kids. 7565 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, triobistro.com.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Via Vite — Via Vite hosts an Italian buffet brunch, featuring Italian items and drink specials. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. $40 adult; $15 child. 520 Vine St., Downtown, 513-721-8483, viaviterestaurant.com.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! Here’s what’s up today.

There’s a showdown coming. Some will win, some will lose and some will, well, probably be completely uninvolved but that’s beside the point. I’m talking about Cincinnati City Council’s continued fight over the Over-the-Rhine parking plan. Yesterday, a council committee passed a version of a plan that would charge residents $108 a year for a parking pass. That’s the second-highest cost in the nation behind famously packed-in San Francisco, though it’s important to note that the cost would be subsidized for low-income residents. Mayor John Cranley, however, wants a different plan that would price the spots higher, at a yet-to-be-determined market rate for non-low-income residents. He’d like to see the extra revenue used to shore up a $600,000 streetcar operating deficit.

That’s all important because the plan passed in committee yesterday has only five apparent votes in favor. Conservatives on council — Amy Murray, Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and swing vote Kevin Flynn look to be opposed to the plan. Five votes is enough to pass the measure but not enough to override a mayoral veto. Cranley’s never played that card before, but he very well could tomorrow when council votes on the proposal. Stay tuned. Things are going to get interesting. Well, as interesting as parking gets, at least.

• In other politics news, County Administrator Christian Sigman might be pulled away from development decisions on the county level after he sent a letter to City Manager Harry Black asking whether the city needs to find a new developer for The Banks riverfront project. County Commissioners will vote tomorrow whether to strip Sigman of development duties. Commissioners say Sigman misrepresented the county in the letter to Black by suggesting the county might replace Banks developers Carter and Dawson due to delays in securing a major hotel at the development. That’s not the case, Commissioner Todd Portune says. Sigman looks to remain administrator and still oversee other departments even if the board votes to remove him from development issues.

• I was just thinking that Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld doesn’t seem busy enough. He’s only running as an underdog in a tough primary race for U.S. Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland in addition to his council job. But he also had a decidedly non-policy proposal for 2016, and now, he also has a wedding to plan. Sittenfeld proposed to his now-fiancee Sarah Coyne yesterday evening in Washington Park. All jokes aside, that’s really sweet. Congrats!

• This is cool. If you want to try to support minority-owned businesses in the city, well, now there’s an app for that. Jooku, created by University of Cincinnati grads, will help you find local businesses, including those that are minority owned. Your searches can be customized and you can favorite businesses you like. There’s also a forum to give feedback and leave comments.

• As you know, it’s May 5, which isn’t just the day Americans celebrate Mexican culture (often in embarrassing and inappropriate ways). It’s also an election day, so if you live in one of the municipalities where operating or school levies are up for a vote, go weigh in on that. Lockland, Winton Woods, Northwest Local, Edgewood City Schools and Kings Local all have school levies up. In addition, Arlington Heights, Elmwood Place, Cheviot, Forest Park and Harrison have levies for general operating expenses or fire service. Go vote. Then have your margaritas or however you celebrate. Don’t do it in the opposite order. That leads to poor choices. Or heck, actually, do have a couple margaritas first if it will make you more likely to give more money to schools.

• Speaking of schools: The head of an area school district has resigned after controversy about his use of power. Last week there was some hubbub around Forest Hills Superintendent Dallas Jackson, who axed a test his son didn’t do very well on. Jackson said that a lot of other students also failed the test and that the high failure rate made them invalid. But more than 20 teachers at Turpin High School, where Jackson’s son attends, disagreed. They fired off a letter to the school board accusing Jackson of wrongdoing. The school board hired an investigator to look into the matter, and yesterday Jackson announced his resignation.

• One more school quick-hit: Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan has responded to protests and criticism from students and parents over the removal of School for Creative and Performing Arts Artistic Director Isadore Rudnick. Ronan says the move is the best thing for SCPA and that the decision wasn’t made lightly. The district announced Friday that Rudnick and Principal Steve Brokamp will both be reassigned from their current positions. Read more about that in this Cincinnati Business Courier story.

• Finally, there are even more official GOP contenders for the 2016 presidential race! Great! Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee officially threw his hat into the ring today. Former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina did as well. That makes six official contenders in the Republican primary — U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and neurosurgeon Ben Carson round out the list. Well, there’s also Rick Santorum, but does anyone seriously think he has a shot? Probably not. Plus, some of the heavy hitters, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are still waiting in the wings. Phew. It’s getting crowded in hur. What does that mean for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has also been making moves like he's gonna run? It means if he doesn’t get his poll numbers up, he could be shut out of the first primary debate, hosted, ironically enough, in his own state. Sad trombone sound.

And I'm out. Tweet or email your news tips or hints on where to find a really rad used cyclocross bike. It's bike month after all and I feel like upgrading my whip.

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<![CDATA[MidPoint Music Festival Announces First Acts for 2015 Event]]>

Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival (owned and operated by CityBeat) recently announced that tickets for the late September festival were on sale, as well as a new date format (instead of Thursday-Saturday, 2015’s MPMF will take place Friday, Sept. 25-Sunday, Sept. 27). Now the first artists slated to appear at MPMF have been unveiled. 

The first batch of MidPoint 2015 acts includes pioneering British Shoegaze band Ride, Canadian Electro Pop duo Purity Ring, Indie/Electronic up-and-comers Sylvan Esso, experimental artist tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) and diverse Indiana songwriter Strand of Oaks. The rest of the initial lineup announcement features Zola Jesus, Cathedrals, Matthew E. White, Pokey LaFarge, Moon Duo, Betty Who, K.Flay, Beach Slang, Sarah Jaffe, Ryley Walker and Truly


More artists (as well as specific schedule and venue info) will be announced in the coming weeks as the Over-the-Rhine/Downtown festival approaches. For the latest updates, tickets (a limited amount of early bird passes are still available) and more info, visit mpmf.com. Artists interested in showcase consideration can still apply through mpmf.com through May 17. 


Here's a sampling of some music clips from this round of MPMFers:








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<![CDATA[Paul Mecurio: Life on the Street]]>

Of all the comedians who have TV shows based on their lives, Paul Mecurio’s story would seem like a slam-dunk for any network. Now it seems, someone is ready to take a shot.

“I’ve got a great showrunner and writer working on developing my life story,” says Mecurio, a former Wall Street lawyer-turned-comedian, from his home in New York City. “It’s a show about a guy who thinks he’s got his life figured out, which is what I thought, but then gets bitten by this bug to do comedy while he’s doing these huge merger and acquisition deals on Wall Street.” For years, Mecurio led what he calls a “secret double life,” sneaking away from his job to go do comedy in all manner of seedy bars and comedy clubs. He has no shortage of crazy stories from those days.

“One time this guy I was opening for made me take him to the Brooklyn to buy coke before the show,” Mecurio recalls. “The end of his act was to take a piece of dental floss and floss his nasal passages through his mouth.”

During another performance, while he was supposed to be in an important meeting at work, one audience member stabbed another right before Mecurio went on. The victim pelted the would-be comedian with bloody napkins. When he got back to the office, his boss screamed, “Where have you been? Why is there blood on your shirt?” Whereupon the other bankers and lawyers in the meeting calmly debated the best way to get blood out of a Brooks Brothers shirt.

Once he took the plunge and started doing comedy full-time, though, Mecurio sold his apartment and most of his belongings and moved into a 10-by-12-foot room. “I was living in this building with two ex-convicts, two recovering addicts and a 300-pound phone sex operator who sold Herbalife diet products,” he says. With little more than a hot plate and a bed to his name, he performed night after night, even under the most trying circumstances. “I got audited by the IRS,” he says. “They asked, ‘Where’s all the money?’ ” They didn’t buy the idea that he quit Wall Street to become a comedian. “No one would do that,” the agent told him. To make matters worse, his car was damaged in a flood and inundated with seawater.

After having second thoughts, Mecurio went back to Wall Street at the behest of a friend who had just become head of new department at one of the major banks. “I went back and recreated my life and then was miserable,” he says, He’d sworn off comedy, vowing to never do it again. “But then two months later I’m doing it again like an alcoholic sneaking out for a drink,” he says.

Living the secret double life again, Mecurio was back in the comedy clubs at night and got good enough to be included in a TV show with other stand-up performers. That’s when his cover was blown. “I had forgotten about it,” Mecurio explains, “and I was at this client’s office in Arizona and he comes in and says ‘Hey, I saw you on TV last night. You were doing some kind of stand-up routine.’ ” Mecurio thought he was dead. “So he pauses and says, “my investment banker is a comedian, how great is that?’ ”

Mecurio left Wall Street again, this time for good, a few months later. “I didn’t enjoy my second tour of duty,” he says. His second go at comedy went much better, as he was gradually getting better spots and gig and coming to the attention of the producers of The Daily Show.

Mecurio became a writer and occasional performer on that program, earning an Emmy along the way. “I took [the job] thinking the show would get canceled in a few months,” he says, laughing. However, he stayed on for seven years before deciding to move on. “The show eats up all of your time,” he says. “I felt like I was missing a lot of opportunities to do stuff as a performer.”

He still does the audience warm-up for the show when he’s in town, which lets him to what he loves the most. “I always wrestled as a writer there, but I learned a lot,” he states. “But I just like having the ability to have my voice be heard and not constantly feeding someone else.”

Toward that end, Mecurio headlines clubs across the country and is a regular panelist on a variety of cable chat shows including Red Eye and Hannity on Fox News, as well as various shows on VH1 and ESPN.

PAUL MECURIO performs Thursday-Sunday at Funny Bone on the Levee. Tickets and more info: funnyboneonthelevee.com.

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<![CDATA[Reel Redux: The Revenant]]>

The most recent recipient of the Best Director Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), will have a new film for 2015 —The Revenant. This movie tells the true story of early-19th entury frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was mauled by a bear during a trapping expedition and is left for dead by his hunting partners (Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson). But it turns out that he’s alive and is now on a quest for revenge.

Some of you are probably tilting your head and wondering why I’m talking about this film instead of something like the new string of Disney live action adaptations that are coming up. The reason is because this is essentially a remake of a 1971 Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore) movie called Man in the Wilderness. It’s a similar story but with names changed, more characters added and the main character, Zachary Bass, is only targeting one person, Captain Henry (John Huston).

I think Man in the Wilderness is an underrated gem from the ‘70s about a man’s struggle for survival and what motivates him to continue his quest. But even though this is a film that I like a lot, I don’t have a problem with it being remade.

First of all, it is trying something a bit different with the story and style. For one thing, Iñárritu seems to be sticking closer to what actually happened. He’s keeping it to just about Glass and his three hunting companions, which I’m sure will be very engaging. In the original film it just kept the drama between the relationship with Bass and Henry all the while trying to juggle more than a dozen members of the expedition; with this small group of characters we get a chance to get engaged with all of them.

One interesting aspect that Iñárritu is doing is that apparently he is filming in natural light — no studio lighting, no artificial lighting or anything. This could add a really nice flavor to the movie. This could help emphasize the survival aspect especially given the fact that it’s in the summer time in a rather untamed part of the country.

Now, as for the casting choices, I’m mixed when it comes to the choice of Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. I mean, there’s nothing really about him that screams mountain man or frontiersman. But then again this could a very good role for him; it’s very different from his usual parts where he typically plays an overly confident one-percenter type or a wide eyed dreamer. It could be right up there with his performance as Calvin Candy in Django Unchained as something different and surprisingly suiting. Though I still would have preferred the original casting choice — Christian Bale.

As of right now, this is a film I’m really looking forward to seeing. Yes, I do recommend the original Harris film, but this new retelling may inspire those in the future and may bring in a whole new audience. Remakes/retellings are not always a bad thing, people, it’s best to keep an open mind. 


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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]> Anne Mitchell: What would you make for dinner if you opened your fridge and saw pork jowl, bee pollen, sorrel and ancient-grain bread? If you’re chef Nick Marckwald from Hen of the Woods, you’d make a panzella salad with bacon and French breakfast radishes, and a yogurt and bee pollen dressing. That’s just one of the amazing things I got to taste on Saturday as one of three judges for the Raid the Garden chef’s competition at Gorman Heritage Farm’s Savor the Season.

Bryant Goulding from Rhinegeist and Grace Yek from WCPO.com shared the arduous task of eating delicious things with me. The competition is set up with two preliminary rounds and then a final cook-off between the winners. There’s a basic pantry stocked with goodies from Whole Foods in Mason but each round has “secret ingredients” that no one knows until the clock starts to tick.

While DJ Mowgli spun tunes, Brad Bernstein of Red Feather Kitchen and Martha McGinnis from Whole Foods went up against last year’s champ, Jaime Carmody in Round One. Carmody, of Out of Thyme, is a personal caterer and cooking instructor, and she’s a calm but determined force when you put her behind a butane burner. The mystery ingredients for the first round were foraged ramps — a chef’s darling of spring — Grateful Grahams, Fab Ferments' Beet Kvass and quail. Chef Jackson Rouse of The Rookwood, emcee of the event, assured me that he loves to cook quail, but 20 minutes is not a long cooking time for tough little game birds. All three of the chefs in this round did an amazing job of plating up pretty food, and McGinnis’ dish had a Cordon Bleu-worthy sauce, but Carmody managed to get her quail closest to done, and won the round.

Marckwald was up against James Dean Gadd from The Rookwood, and Mike Florea of Maribelle's eat +drink in Oakley, the founder of the local friendly chef competition, Food Fight. Florea put together an earthy cassoulet style dish with white cannellini beans, and Gadd nearly won the judges’ hearts with two simple words: candied bacon. Oh, yeah. But Marckwald’s dish wowed us — as judge Goulding said, “They’re all good, but I’ll still be talking about this one tomorrow.”

Mixologist Lance Bowman from Japp’s saw that we were working up a powerful thirst, and brought us each a sorrel-inspired cocktail to go with Course Two. We also got to revive ourselves with Nitro Coffee from Deeper Roots and a new local product, Hopwater. For the final round, though, there was no better pairing than a Rhinegeist Hustle.

The final competition is for dessert, but the ingredients aren’t all sweet. Maverick Chocolate from Findlay Market supplied their hand-crafted Espresso chocolate bar, but there were also morel mushrooms and fresh thyme. Chef Carmody whipped together a chocolate cream-of-wheat garnished with spicy tortilla crisps that was a big bowl of comfort food, but Marckwald wowed us with chocolate pancakes with cranberry, morel and thyme gastrique. 

Besides Raid the Garden, Savor featured chef demos from amazing talents like Todd Kelly of Orchids at the Palm Court, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Jose Salazar, Ryan Santos, Patrick Hague of Dutch’s Larder, and Marcus Hazel from Cincinnati Cooks. There were food trucks and wonderful food purveyors like Sheltowee Mushroom Farm, and cocktail pairings from Japp's Bowman with crostini from Julie Francis of Nectar. Savor is spring’s best food event — mark your calendar for next year now!

Ilene Ross: On Thursday night my daughter and I attended the dress rehearsal of the DAAP fashion show to watch my niece, a senior, debut her fabulous collection of sportswear. The show was amazing, but unfortunately we had arrived with empty stomachs. Luckily there is a little market right next to the student center, so I grabbed some small plastic cups filled with cheese-like product, yucky tasting grapes and cheap crackers for us to nibble on. When I asked my daughter why the grapes tasted so foul, she looked at me with a straight face and said, “preservatives.” On Friday morning a very sweet person showed up expectantly at my doorstep with a donut from Holtman’s because I had a not-so-great week. Whoever said food isn’t love is an asshole — at least in my book.

On Saturday night I hung out at Japp's with my pal Molly Wellmann — something I don’t get to do enough of because of her ridiculously busy schedule — while she tended bar for a bit. She made me the most perfect Manhattan, and when she was done working, we walked around the corner to Neons, met up with her boyfriend Bee and had some burgers from Taste 513 who were grilling there.

Casey Arnold: Friday and Saturday were pretty average days. Sunday Funday became a tour of OTR. I biked down and met with three friends for brunch at Kaze to start. We shared a delicious carafe of brunch punch, which consisted of pineapple and rum. We also got some tasty shrimp sliders and shared their delicious french fries. We subsequently hit up Neons and Goodfellas. Our final stop was Kreuger's Tavern, where we shared hot beer cheese and a pesto spread in front of the open doors by the patio. We shared a carafe or two of gin and juice to finish off the afternoon which had become evening. It was one of the best Sundays I've had in a while. Viva la spring!

Maija Zummo: I went to brunch at Sugar n' Spice on Sunday. We only had to wait like an hour, which is a relatively short amount of time for the ol' SnS. We ended up getting the "honeymoon" table, which is a one-sided booth where you sit next to your dining partner and both face the same way. A little odd if you were having a business lunch, but pleasantly quirky otherwise. I ate a huge veggie omelet and a side of wispy thin blueberry pancakes. Their omelets are seriously huge — like a Chipotle burrito. I hate cooking eggs at home because they freak me out — they are like little sunshine mucus globs — but I love eating them. 
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand and you did something fun to kick off bike month if you’re into that kind of thing. I am, and I spent some of my weekend biking — for a news story. You’ll find out more about that Wednesday though.

Anyway, here’s what’s up in the news. After a $10 million donation by American Financial Group and Edyth Linder, wife of AFG founder Carl Linder Jr., Music Hall is just $10 million short of the $125 million required for much-needed renovations. The historic Cincinnati landmark, built in 1878, hasn’t seen major work in 40 years and needs interior updates to its acoustics and seating, among other work. Also helping get closer to the goal, businessman Harry Fath and his wife Linda have pledged to boost their donation toward the renovation project from $2 million to $4 million. That’s all huge news for the building, which was cut last summer from a proposed sales tax increase that is currently funding renovation work on Union Terminal in the West End.

• Two top administrators at the School for Creative and Performing Arts will be leaving their posts, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan announced Friday afternoon. Principal Steve Brokamp and Artistic Director Dr. Isadore Rudnick are both being reassigned at the direction of an oversight board for the school. The move comes as CPS searches for an executive director for the magnet school, a hire suggested by an outside consultancy group brought in to assess the school’s management. Students aren’t happy that Rudnick is leaving, protesting outside the building on Central Parkway today and taking to social media with the hashtag #reinstaterudnick.

• As Cincinnati gets more attention from national media outlets for the new restaurants, bars and other attractions springing up downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, more folks have visited our fair city. Specifically, and astounding 24 million folks visited the Queen City in 2013, spending $4.4 billion, according to a new study released by regional tourism groups The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, meetNKY and the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network. That’s a boost of 4 percent per year since 2009. All that money put nearly half a billion dollars into the coffers of the state of Ohio and local governments.

• Here’s a pretty incredible New York Times breakdown of social mobility by county. The interactive map is built on a study by Harvard economists that looks at social mobility in terms of how much income a child will make by age 26 as a function of what county they grow up in. The more likely a low-income child in an area is to add to their household income as they grow up, the more income mobility that area offers. The results: Hamilton County is worse than roughly 75 percent of counties in the United States.

Poor children in Hamilton County can statistically expect to lose $810 from their household income. That’s not evenly distributed, though: Poor males will actually do better over time to the tune of $700, while poor females will do much, much worse — statistically, they can expect to be down almost $2,700 by age 26. Nearby Warren County, however, is much different. There, children can expect to see their household incomes rise by $2,500 by the time they’re 26, and that rise is nearly equal among males and females. The study uses reams of data for every county across the country to paint a big picture of what income mobility looks like in America. The New York Times story is especially neat because not only does it map every county, but it will anticipate, based on your location, which county you’re interested in seeing. When I pulled up the story, it already knew to go straight to Hamilton County. Impressive.

• Finally, the ranks of Republicans officially running for president swelled today as Dr. Ben Carson announced his candidacy. Carson, a renowned and history-making neurosurgeon, has become something of a conservative celebrity in recent years and has garnered millions in funds for his campaign already. Much has been made of the fact that Carson is African American. Conservatives, including Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, have touted Carson’s campaign as a sign that the GOP is a diverse and accepting party despite "stereotypes" to the contrary. Despite the fanfare, however, many Republicans including Carson himself acknowledge he’s a long-shot. He has little political experience and polls show him trailing other contenders such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. A particular Carson weakness: his tendency to say pretty inflammatory things, including claiming that legalized same-sex marriage will lead to legalized bestiality and calling Obamacare the worst thing to happen in America since slavery. Youch.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email news tips and/or your favorite summer bike routes. I can’t wait to get out and ride some more.

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<![CDATA[Call Board: Theater News]]>

While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it.

Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)

For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:

Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first.

Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful.

Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.

Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.

Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Durang and One Dang Funny Dysfunctional Family]]>

Christopher Durang's witty comedy Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike opened last night at the Cincinnati Playhouse. If that title makes you think of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, well, that's part of the playwright's comic plan. But his script reassembles some of those wry comic elements with a few modern twists. The three characters with Chekhovian names are siblings with wildly divergent perspectives; "Spike" stirs things up by being more physical than intellectual. You don't have to know any theater history to have a good time with this play, especially when Vanya launches into a 10-minute rant about what's wrong with the modern world — referencing everything from postage stamps and technology to global warming and a lot of TV from the 1950s. It's hilarious. This show is being staged at theaters all over America this season. For more about Durang, read my Curtain Call column. Through May 23. Tickets: 513-421-3888

The Covedale Center has carved our a meaningful niche in the local theater scene with staging Golden Age musicals, and they're opening one of the best this weekend, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. It was the final show by the pair who created Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and The King and I. Thanks to the movie featuring Julie Andrews, I don't really have to tell you what it's about. But I should mention that the stage version has a bit more of a socio-political edge to it: Two of my favorite numbers (that didn't make it into the film) are "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive?" — pay attention to them for some sassy songwriting. The show is onstage at the West Side theater through May 24; tickets: 513-241-6550

Several worthwhile productions are finishing their runs this weekend with Sunday performances. That includes the searing psychological and political drama Death and the Maiden by Diogenes Theatre Company, featuring Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Giles Davies at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … Cincinnati Shakespeare is winding up its staging of the great comedy of love and combat, The Taming of the Shrew. (Read my review here). Tickets: 513-381-2273 … And if you've ever struggled to connect with a play by the Bard, you might enjoy John Murrell's Taking Shakespeare at Dayton's Human Race Theater Company. The latter is about a disillusioned college professor asked to tutor her dean's son through a freshman class in Shakespeare. The subject is Othello, and their wrangling helps them learn more about one another. It's some fine acting, with Jon Kovach, seen frequently on Cincinnati stages, as the opinionated but drifting young man. Tickets: 937-228-3630


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

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<![CDATA[Musicians Pay Tribute to Influential, Gone-to-Soon Singer/Songwriters]]>

Tribute albums are typically divided into three categories. They’re either a) bankable artists covering high profile subjects (or, infrequently, famously known cult figures); b) cool/respected artists covering cool/respected artists; or c) some weird hybrid of the first two. 

Two recently released tributes fall squarely in the second category, with Avett Brothers frontman Seth Avett and rising Americana/Rock vocalist Jessica Lea Mayfield taking a quietly beautiful stroll through a sampling of Elliott Smith's exquisite catalog on Sing Elliott Smith, and Frames frontman and solo artist in his own right Glen Hansard honoring his great hero and friend Jason Molina on It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, which was available last month.


There are odd connections between the two projects. In the general point of interest sense, both are posthumous tributes. Smith died in 2003, apparently by his own hand, and Molina succumbed in 2013 after a long battle with alcoholism. And on a more personal level, by the sheerest of coincidences, I've interviewed both of the subjects of these two tributes.


Back in 2000, I spoke with Smith while he was still touring on Figure 8, which had come out earlier that year. And in 2003, I was assigned a feature on Songs: Ohia, fronted and braintrusted by Molina, who had just finished an album he titled The Magnolia Electric Co., which marked the end of Songs: Ohia and the shift to the band named after his new album. Both were fascinating and heartfelt conversations with artists who were amazingly self aware but not at all self absorbed, quietly brilliant songwriters who had an almost pathological need to extract their musical impulses from the dark well of their ultimately troubled souls.


Hansard — who came to prominence as the voice, guitarist and primary songwriter for Irish Rock band The Frames before establishing a side project (Swell Season) and solo career and hitting semi-big with the movie Once and his soundtrack, featuring the Academy Award-winning hit "Falling Slowly" — was so inspired by Molina's deeply emotional and confessional songcraft that the first fan letter he ever sent to a fellow artist was to Molina. Back in 2005, two years after I'd interviewed Molina, I had the rare opportunity to witness the pair's personal and professional bond firsthand.


At my second South by Southwest experience, I followed former The Onion music editor Stephen Thompson to see a Frames appearance at one of Austin's innumerable daytime parties. Stephen was a huge Frames fan and the band knew him well; he had done enough to help expose the band to American audiences that they thanked him in the liner notes to Burn the Maps.


When we arrived at the venue, the band members were wandering through the crowd just prior to their set and Stephen made a beeline for them. He introduced me to The Frames, but there was a dark, diminutive and somewhat familiar presence in the circle who was clearly with the band but not as a member. Glen Hansard spoke up, in his pudding thick Irish brogue, and said, "This is Jason Molina."


I shook his hand and reminded him of our phone conversation and the Rockpile feature two years previous. He greeted me warmly and we talked about what we'd seen at the festival to that point and what we hoped to see going forward. We spent a good 10 minutes in this convivial manner, right up until The Frames took the stage and were announced. After that, his unwavering focus was on the band; he watched and listened as though he was occupying the front pew in church during a sermon he knew for an absolute fact would change his life for the better. He stood in rapt attention, soaking in every word, every note and every nuance and with good reason — The Frames were a mesmerizing live force back then.


At the set's conclusion, Molina immediately swiveled toward me and we exchanged jaw-dropped exclamations of disbelief. Within a few minutes, Hansard made his way to Molina's side and the two began critiquing the performance, Hansard pointing out the flaws and Molina categorically dismissing them. I laughingly thought to myself as I headed to the door and the next party, I'll bet their roles will be diametrically reversed when Magnolia Electric Co., the band that Songs: Ohia had morphed into, plays later this week and Hansard is the fan in the front row. It reminded me of something Molina had said regarding the fact that he was already thinking past the album he had just finished. 


"I can do better," he said without hesitation. "My next one, I'm already sweating it. Since the day I walked out of the studio, I've been working on the next one. I don't feel like this one failed, but I'm still looking for the better one."


I thought about Hansard's face as it must have looked while he watched Molina's appearance in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, and imagined the sadder but equally beatific visage he must have exhibited in the studio as he was translating the five tracks that comprise It Was Triumph We Once Proposed. This brief and beautifully executed EP serves a similar purpose as Hansard's distant but never forgotten fan letter, as he pays loving tribute to his long personal friendship with Molina and to the work that first illuminated his immense talents to the world.


Hansard assembled a group of longtime Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. collaborators/friends to record a heartbreaking quintet of Molina compositions, all Songs: Ohia tracks and all lending themselves perfectly to Hansard's passionate and sensitively wrought translation. Molina often worked at the creative intersection of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and Hansard taps into that shivery vibe with a true fan's boundless devotion and a true friend's immeasurable grief. On the one-two punch of the powerfully poignant "Being in Love" and the achingly beautiful "Hold On, Magnolia," Hansard illuminates the raw, wrenching wisdom of lines like, ”We are proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn," and the prescient "You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me." And just like Molina's life and amazing musical output, Hansard's It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is both immensely satisfying and far too short.



The other contender for Most Amazing and Deserved Tribute of the Year is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield's Sing Elliott Smith, a (relatively) spare and loving bow to one of this generation's most insightful and contemplative songwriters. After his shredding turn with Portland’s Heatmiser, Smith turned down the volume for his home-recorded solo debut, Roman Candle, which was followed by his equally nuanced eponymous sophomore album and then the jewel in his crown, 1998's Either/Or, which director Gus Van Zant cherry-picked for his soundtrack to his masterpiece Good Will Hunting. Smith scored an Academy Award nomination for his song "Miss Misery," and the success of the soundtrack and his almost uncomfortably vulnerable performance at the Oscars vaulted him into a spotlight that he never actively pursued.


By the time of our 2000 interview, Smith had managed to come to uneasy terms with the maelstrom of fame that resulted from Good Will Hunting and Either/Or's tangential success. It had required him to think about his work in pedestrian ways, to explain it in a fashion that would be understandable to people with little understanding.


But through it all, Smith remained true to his own process, trusting that, regardless of outside opinions, expectations or interests, he continued to create the kind of music he wanted to hear in the manner that he wanted to create it. And he knew that, no matter how much anyone involved in his career wanted him to pull Either/Or 2 out of his magician's hat, the only thing that would truly satisfy his artistic nature would be to create what came out of him organically, without being conjured or forced.


"I don't think it was on my mind," Smith said about making the Beatlesque Figure 8 in the wake of major-label debut XO, Either/Or and Good Will Hunting. "I was just making up songs the way I always do. I mean, it was never going to sell millions of copies, so there wasn't that kind of pressure."


That may well be why Sing Elliott Smith is so incredibly successful as a tribute. Smith's songbook is among the most revered in contemporary music and the acclaim that has been lavished on Avett and Mayfield since their debuts is both effusive and deserved. Given all that, there's little risk involved at any level of this project.


The blending of the two principals' voices was the only unknown and that particular question mark is definitely straightened into a boldface exclamation point with Avett and Mayfield's brilliant opening duet on Either/Or's "Between the Bars." Avett's stylistic path from Punk provocateur to rootsy Americana troubadour to genre melding alchemist is a pretty fair match to Smith's own journey, and Mayfield's weary optimism lines up well with Smith's gloomy hopefulness. Together, Avett and Mayfield are the perfect translators for Smith's hushed (and not so hushed) odes to the anguish and bittersweet joy of love and modern life and they coalesce almost effortlessly on brilliant lines like, "Nothing's gonna drag me down/To a death that's not worth cheating." 



It's moments like that one from "Baby Britain" that make Sing Elliott Smith resonate so clearly from start to finish. It's particularly poignant when Mayfield takes the lead on "A Fond Farewell" — from the album Smith was working on at the time of his death, released posthumously as From a Basement on the Hill — and she sings words that seem so startlingly prescient coming so close to Smith's sad end; "A little less than a happy heart/A little less than a suicide/The only thing that you really tried/This is not my life, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/It's not what I'm like, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/Who couldn't get things right."


Avett and Mayfield offer a broad core sample of Smith's amazing catalog (only 1995's self-titled sophomore album isn't represented), and the pair's affinity for and love of their subject's work is evident in every trembling note and emotional lyric. At almost 37 minutes, Sing Elliott Smith is a full album but it feels impossibly short and is over well before the listener is ready for it to be done. If ever there was a release that warranted the often-dreaded subtitle of Volume 2, it would be Sing Elliott Smith.


It seems only proper that the final words in this piece should be reserved for the subjects of these two tributes. First, an interesting comment from Jason Molina about his songwriting process led to a philosophical statement about his musical belief system.


"I almost write the music at the same time I'm trying to think of who could best put this onto tape, and that goes right down to the engineer," he noted. "Maybe it's a cowardly way to work because I don't take all of the burden onto myself, but ego should never be part of the music."


And finally, Elliott Smith addressed the media's tendency to label him as "melancholy," which morphed into an explanation of the simple reality that labels have tried to manipulate and contradict throughout their long and checkered histories.


"As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag," Smith admitted. “Also, 'Why aren't you playing dance music?' and 'Why are your songs so sad?' They're just clichés. If it wasn't those, it would be different ones. You can't always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don't. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there's nine million people that can relate, and I'm not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it's going to be kind of idiosyncratic."


Long live the idiosyncratic artist, and the memories of those who left us way before their creative dreams were fulfilled.


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<![CDATA[Urban Artifact Now Open in Northside]]>

Northside’s Urban Artifact Brewing opened its doors last week, hoping to push the envelope by displaying a finessed brand and aesthetic by reinvigorating old styles of beer and celebrating local artists of all genres. Residing in a renovated church, the brewery is collaborating with restaurant Meatball Kitchen and has big plans for the future as a destination to hear live music. 


“We love Northside and we love the neighborhood, so that was at the top of our list from the beginning,” says Scott Hand, who opened the brewery with partners Brett Kollmann Baker, Scott Hunter and Dominic Marino. Hand, a DAAP graduate, was working as an architect in Chicago when he and Marino, a musician and artist, began talking about opening a brewery. Knowing the financial restrictions they would face as a new business in the Windy City, the duo relocated to Cincinnati to begin the project. 


Hand was familiar with the process of reconstructing an old space, so when St. Pius X on Blue Rock Street, formerly home to Queen City Cookies’ bakery, became available, the team thought it was the perfect fit for their vision. Originally, Hand and Marino had planned to open Greyscale Cincinnati, a multi-use performing arts facility and craft brewery in the former Jackson Brewery on Mohawk Street in Over-the-Rhine. But plans and funding change, and the Northside church’s sanctuary, gymnasium, next door rectory and other open spaces have now become Urban Artifact, a brewery and event space still focused on blending music (their music label retains the Greyscale Cincinnati name) and unique beer, but with an additional spotlight on good food, design and elevated branding. 


“Because of branding, we made a point to reuse a lot of the church and what was already there,” Hand says. “This is a lot harder than just gutting it and starting from scratch. Most breweries are in warehouses or large rooms; our brand and beers come together for a unique experience.” In the final renovation, the team highlighted the church’s historic features, like its stained glass and old columns. They’ve also kept the radiators and reincorporated the 1940s maple floors they plied up from the gymnasium, now home to brewing equipment and fermenters, as finishes in the main church building’s lower-level taproom.  


Featuring old things while incorporating contemporary necessities was crucial for Urban Artifact. Most of their beer styles, which utilize wild yeast, bacteria and other captured local cultures, are from the Prohibition days — brewers Hunter and Baker both have backgrounds in chemical engineering. Hand’s favorites are the Maize, a Kentucky Common-style beer, and Harrow Gose, a bready beer of German origin. “The Gose is the most enjoyable for me, and it’s a light beer so I can have two or three without feeling bad about it,” he jokes. The brewery will also focus on experimental wild and tart ales, listing the ale’s pH and other information in the taproom to add an educational element to the experience, and will have local Skinny Pig Kombucha on tap as a non-beer fermented alternative.


The brewery also partnered with Meatball Kitchen, leasing part of rectory’s first floor to become the restaurant’s second location. Food runners will unify the two buildings and make Meatball Kitchen available to everyone. (Currently, Meatball Kitchen is set up in a corner of the taproom until the restaurant renovations are complete.) Hand says the partnership was a natural fit due to their similar aesthetics. 


“[Meatball Kitchen’s] Short Vine location has a similar feel — old wood, exposed pipes and things. The menu really identifies with our beers as well,” he says. “I think they are redesigning and making little changes to their menu to make our collaboration more cohesive.”


The brewery’s lower level, which can hold about 200 people, is separated into two parts — the taproom and a listening lounge — in addition to a beer garden outside. Every Wednesday, the listening lounge will feature Cincinnati Jazz institution the Blue Wisp Big Band, which features brewery partner Marino on trombone. The band has been performing every Wednesday night since 1980, but lost their home last year when the Blue Wisp Jazz Club closed. Hand says the “Cincinnati cultural icon” will be at Urban Artifact indefinitely.


In terms of other live music, the brewery scored Soul/R&B/Funk band The Almighty Get Down for their opening night last Friday and World-Fusion band Baoku last Saturday. While powerhouse local bands are flocking to Urban Artifact, they are still looking to book less established, up-and-coming local bands of any genre for other nights. (Hand encourages interested bands to contact Marino at dominic@artifactbeer.com.)


The four partners are working hard to have a successful first week of business, but Hand has big plans for the future. The lower level renovation is complete, but the main floor sanctuary is phase two. As a music enthusiast with an architectural background, Hand’s main passion is acoustics. His goal in the next couple of years is to create a “formal but flexible” space for ticketed events, live theater, receptions and eventually big-ticketed performers in the sanctuary. 


“I do not want it be your typical standing space,” he says. “It will not be the environment where you blast bands to the loudest decibel and come out with your ears ringing.” 


Hand says performers would have the opportunity to record their live shows for personal use or redistribution. He hopes creating the ideal acoustic space will attract larger name performers.


Urban Artifact, whose motto is “Wild culture” for their beers and their brand, focuses on creating a unique product, building promising partnerships and including local artists and culture in their brewery. “We have identified what we’re best at and we do it well, but the best thing is that we come together in the end and figure out how to get things accomplished best as a team,” Hand says. “I think we are pushing the envelope for what a finessed brewing aesthetic is and how that affects the overall experience.” 


Urban Artifact is located at 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside. Hours are 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday; noon-1:30 a.m. Saturday and noon-midnight Sunday. For more information, visit artifactbeer.com.


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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (5/1-5/3)]]>

Stuff to do for athletes, aesthetes and people who love celebrating spring produce.


FRIDAY

Party pre-marathon with the FLYING PIG WEEKEND

On your mark, get set and go to the 17th annual Flying Pig Marathon. Come and see thousands of runners and walkers of all skill levels take part in this beloved race (a Boston Marathon qualifier). Stand on the sidelines and cheer or register and take part in a course that travels along the streets of Cincinnati, Covington, Newport, Mariemont, Fairfax and Columbia Township. Along with the marathon, the Flying Pig weekend features a series of events. 

  • Friday: P&G health and fitness expo at the Duke Energy Convention Center
  • Saturday: Toyota 10k downtown; Family Fun Festival at Yeatman's Cove; Tri-State Running Company 5k from GABP; the P&G health and fitness expo; a kids' marathon; IAMS flying fur race for dogs and their people; Flying Pig pasta pig out at Schmidlapp Lawn.
  • Sunday: Moerlein Lager House viewing party and breakfast (starts at 6 a.m.); Flying Pig; some more half marathons; Michelob Ultra victory party at Yeatman's Cove.

See a full list of events and prices online. Marathon starts 6:30 a.m. Sunday; marathon registration is $115. flyingpigmarathon.com.


Cheap AAArt
Photo: Paul Coors

Buy some CHEAP AAART

Local artist and curator Paul Coors (an Art Academy of Cincinnati grad and co-founder of former OTR art space Publico) will exhibit and host a silent auction — with assigned low starting figures and minimum raises — of his own artwork made within the past 10 years on Friday and Saturday at his Brighton loft/exhibition space, The Ice Cream Factory. True to Coors’ legacy of engaging musical acts in his art shows, friends of the artist will DJ over the course of both evenings including Bridget Battle (Tweens), Chris Burgan (Platter Party Records), Jordan Bronk and Sebastian Botzow (the DJ duo behind the monthly Fogger set at Rakes End), Floyd From Ohio Johnson (of Ohio Against the World fame) and Yoni Wolf (WHY?). 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free; all ages. The Ice Cream Factory, 2133 Central Ave., Brighton, paulcoors.co.


The Sound of Music
Photo: Covedale Center

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SOUND OF MUSIC with a live performance

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great musical theater collaboration — The Sound of Music — has been in the news recently, celebrating the Academy Award-winning movie’s 50th anniversary. If you’d like to dig further into the past (56 years ago it won five Tony Awards in its Broadway debut), you’ll find it onstage at the Covedale Center. It’s the story of a young woman who fails at becoming a nun. But she loves to sing and that wins over a motherless family and their stern father. It’s been a winner since 1959, and it’s sure to please audiences in this production staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll. Through May 24. $21-$24. Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Western Hills, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.



SATURDAY

Derby Day Soiree at Neons
Photo: Wellmann's Brands

Get drunk on mint juleps at Neons' DERBY DAY SOIREE

The Kentucky Derby takes a two-minute race and turns it into a weekend of festivities throughout Louisville — drinking signature cocktails, exclusive parties and many out-of-town celebrity guests in elaborate millinery. But why should Louisvillians have all the fun? Neons is gathering Cincinnatians together to craft derby hats, sip on three different kinds of juleps (in 2015 official Kentucky Derby glasses) and watch the race in their second annual Derby Day Soirée. The event also features live music from the OTR Bluegrass Band featuring members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars. 2 p.m. Saturday. Free. Neons, 208 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, neons-unplugged.com.


Wilder
Photo: Wayne Litmer 

Wear a fancy hat to the WILDER EP release party at the Southgate House

Americana/Country group Wilder was formed last year by singer/songwriters Kelly Thomas and Randy Steffen after their previous projects had come to an end (Thomas’ Fabulous Pickups and Steffen’s Sleepin’ Dogs). Building into a full band and establishing a presence on the local club scene, Wilder is now set to release its debut EP with a special show Saturday at Southgate House Revival. Falling on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, the 9 p.m. show will have a derby theme (Wear wild hats! Drink mint juleps!). Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Mad Anthony and Danny Mecher and the Home Demos are also on the bill. Admission is $5 (or $7 if you’d like a copy of the EP on CD). 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com.


Savor the Season: Farm to Fork Celebration
Photo: Jamie Stoneham

Celebrate spring at Gorman Heritage Farm with SAVOR THE SEASON

The phrase “farm-to-table” gets a literal translation at Gorman Heritage Farm’s annual Savor the Season celebration Saturday. This epicurean adventure, in partnership with Slow Food Cincinnati, focuses on reveling in spring’s bounty from the 122-acre working farm and farms around the area. Top local chefs — including Jose Salazar of Salazar, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Todd Kelly of Orchids, Ryan Santos of Please and more — will be offering tasting samples of dishes that highlight seasonal produce, and chef Julie Francis of Nectar and Lance Bowman of Japp’s will be creating cocktail and food pairings. Don’t miss the “Raid the Garden” competition (CityBeat dining writer Anne Mitchell will be one of the judges), where chefs enter into a Chopped-style food competition. The event also includes food trucks and vendors, music from DJ Mowgli and garden/farm workshops, like composting 101, chickens in your backyard, beekeeping and more. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. $25-$35; $10 for Raid the Garden only. 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, 513-563-6663, gormanfarm.org.


Cincy-Cinco Fiesta on Fountain Square
Photo: Provided

Party on Fountain Square for the CINCY-CINCO FIESTA ON FOUNTAIN SQUARE

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Fiesta on Fountain Square. This authentic Latino festival is designed to share all aspects of Latin American culture, values and traditions with the Cincinnati community in a fun, family-oriented event. Live entertainment throughout the weekend includes performances from Latin band Tropicoso, Cincinnati Balia Dance Academy, Mariachi Zelaya and more, plus food from the likes of La Mexicana, Cuban Pete and Empanadas Caribe. A special children's area will provide free games, crafts, prizes and other activities. All proceeds benefit Tristate charities in support of the Hispanic population. Noon-11 p.m. Saturday; Noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, cincicinco.com.


GeoFair

Buy some rocks at the GEOFAIR

The 50th annual GeoFair is Cincinnati’s largest gem, mineral, fossil and jewelry show. This year’s theme is “American Mineral and Fossil Treasures,” with displays containing private, university and museum-quality specimens, along with vendors and wholesalers, a swap area and free fossil, meteorite, mineral and gemstone identification. Demonstrations include gold panning, geode cracking and gemstone polishing. Children younger than 12 will receive free mineral and fossil specimens upon entry. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $9 adults; $3 kids; free for uniformed scouts. Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, Sharonville, geofair.com.



SUNDAY

Make cooing noises at ZOO BABIES

Celebrate the newest arrivals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden during the entire month of May, where you'll find the cutest baby faces from all over the globe. Follow the six-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues displayed throughout the zoo to lead you to baby African lions, penguin chicks, bonobo monkeys, a whole litter of African painted dogs and more, as their big eyes, miniature sizes and playful personalities melt your heart. Through May. Park admission $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.


Betsy Wolfe in The Music Man
Photo: Murphy Made

Take in a lightly staged matinee of THE MUSIC MAN

As Hugh Jackman declared in his 2009 Oscars performance, “The musical is back!” Musicals and movie-musicals have lodged themselves in the mainstream consciousness though film productions like Les Miserables (in which the aforementioned Jackman starred) and Into The Woods (an Oscar-nominated adaptation of the Sondheim classic) and various frequent Broadway touring productions, like those at the Aronoff Center. Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conductor John Morris Russell is giving us another angle through which to experience a classic musical, resurrected this weekend. The Pops’ semi-staged performance of 1957’s The Music Man features Broadway veterans Will Chase and Betsy Wolfe in leading roles, plus hundreds of local artists from Playhouse in the Park, CCM’s musical theater department, May Festival Chorus and more. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $20-$103. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.


Laugh at VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE

Vanya, Sonia and Masha are mismatched siblings, named by academic parents who had a yen for community theater. Now late in middle age, Vanya and Sonia continue to live in rural eastern Pennsylvania on the family’s farm with a few cherry trees. (Durang constantly drops reminders of Chekhov, dollops of amusement for anyone who recognizes them.) Their lives have some angst and ennui, but they aren’t doing anything about it. Through May 23. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyplay.com.


The Contemporary Arts Center’s new lobby includes a café, Collective CAC, with ample seating.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Grab a coffee at the CAC's new lobby and check out REMEMBER THE FUTURE

Blah concrete no longer dominates the Contemporary Arts Center lobby. A mere decade after its opening, the harsh environment needed a change. “We wanted the lobby to be the movie trailer for what’s upstairs,” says CAC curator Steven Matijcio. Architect Zaha Hadid’s vision of an “urban carpet” that draws visitors from the sidewalk has been realized with a colorful mural blanketing the walls, lights on the concrete pillars and the welcome desk front and center. A neon sign over the entrance reads “Contagious,” reflecting the vibe enjoyed at the café and in conversations on comfortable couches. Even though they resemble thunderclouds, chandeliers by Cincinnati sculptor Matt Kotlarczyk perk up an overcast day. The CAC needed to seize control of space, time and light. 


Upstairs Daniel Arsham’s Remember the Future is anchored by a gray mountain of hundreds upon hundreds of pop culture artifacts cast from volcanic ash, obsidian, quartz and glacial rock. Yet colorful, not-so-distant memories stir as the viewer circles the heap and notices boom boxes, video game controllers, keyboards, cameras, turntables, guitars, film reels and videotapes. 10-4 p.m. $7.50 adults; $5.50 educators/students/seniors. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, contemporaryartscenter.org.


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning y’all. Like yesterday, I’m once again groggy this morning, but for different reasons that have everything to do with the news. So let’s talk about that.

Last night a group of about 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to protest inequities in the nation’s justice system and to express solidarity with Baltimore, where civil unrest has broken out after the April 18 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Gray died from injuries he sustained while in police custody. The rally and subsequent march through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, which drew more than 100, were peaceful and lasted about four hours. No one was arrested, though there were a few tense moments as protesters tried to enter a highway on-ramp and the Horseshoe Casino. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell was present at the protest last night, and this morning appeared on CNN touting the city’s protest response protocols, which have been adopted by the U.S. Justice Department as an example of how police should respond to such rallies.

Update: Gray's death has been ruled a homicide and the six Baltimore police officers involved will be charged. Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, will be charged with second-degree murder, Baltimore State Attorney Marylin Mosby announced today. Other officers involved in Gray's arrest will face lesser charges.

“I heard your call for 'No justice, no peace,' ” Mosby said at a news conference. “Your peace is severely needed as I work to deliver justice for this young man.”

• Drug overdose deaths in Ohio have hit record numbers, according to a report released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Health. In 2013, 2,210 people died of overdoses in the state, a 10 percent increase in a year. It’s especially grim here in the Greater Cincinnati area: About 440, or 20 percent, of those deaths happened in Southwestern Ohio’s Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren Counties. Here in Hamilton County, deaths have increased 30 percent since last year, according to the report. More than 40 percent of those deaths statewide were caused by heroin overdoses, by far the biggest single cause of drug overdoses in the state. Heroin overdose deaths have spike sharply in the last four years, overtaking cocaine overdoses in 2012 as the leading cause of overdose death.

• Yesterday I told you about how the Cincinnati Enquirer swapped out a headline on a news article about a murder in OTR while taking criticism for its handling of that story. Several high-profile Cincinnatians have since called out the Enquirer for coverage they call sensationalist. You can read more about that, and CityBeat editor Danny Cross’ analysis, here.

• We all have needs. I maybe need to get around to buying a car eventually. Cincinnati needs better public transit. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other top officials need $9.6 million worth of small aircraft to hop around the state in. The state has purchased two Beechcraft airplanes for officials to use on state business. State officials say the planes are needed replacements for older aircraft with rising maintenance costs. One of the shiny new planes holds nine passengers, the other six, and in case you’re wondering, yes, they do have all the necessary modern avionics equipment on board, including an entertainment center and the oh-so-vital wine bottle chillers because god knows you can’t drink room-temperature white wine while you’re floating somewhere above Youngstown on official state business.

• Speaking of Kasich, his profile is rising as he continues to kinda sorta run for president. I read this pretty long Atlantic article about him yesterday. The piece literally calls him a jerk and make him sound a little like he has attention deficit disorder. But the in-depth Atlantic piece also talks about his strengths, including his energy and his sometimes-gruff but sometimes-endearing plainspoken ways. Some other magazines and national publications have taken a closer look at Kasich over the past week or so, including conservative mag the National Review, which thinks his bid is a no-go. I’d tell you more about their article, but talking about the National Review makes my soul hurt so let’s just stop there, shall we?

• Speaking of the 2016 presidential race, Cincinnati’s uh, favorite (?) son Larry Flynt has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Good thing for Clinton? Bad thing for Clinton? Unclear. Flynt says he’s mostly behind Clinton because she has the best chance of winning and she’ll be able to appoint two or three Supreme Court justices, bringing the nation’s highest court under a decidedly liberal sway. Flynt was an ardent supporter of Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton. He doesn’t have any illusions that Hillary is about to take him on the campaign trail with her, though.

“I’m sure that Hillary doesn’t necessarily approve of everything I do,” he told Bloomberg Politics.

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<![CDATA[Rally in Solidarity with Baltimore Draws Hundreds]]>

More than 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to protest racial disparities in the justice system and express solidarity with Baltimore. More than a week of unrest has gripped that city after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in police custody there April 18. Gray sustained severe spinal injuries while riding in a police van, slipped into a coma and died from his injuries.

The Cincinnati rally was the latest of several that have taken place downtown in the last year after the  shooting death of unarmed teen Mike Brown by white officer Darren Wilson brought national attention to the issue of racially-charged police-involved deaths. 

After the rally, a crowd of more than 100 marched down Central Parkway, through Over-the-Rhine, and to the Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive.  From there, a smaller group of about 40 took a zig-zagging route past City Hall and Fountain Square. That group had a couple tense standoffs with police at the eastern end of Fifth Street near a highway onramp and in front of the Horseshoe Casino. All told, the protest lasted about four hours, winding down about 10 pm.

The protests were peaceful and did not result in any arrests, police said, though one protester was briefly detained on Vine Street and issued a citation for jaywalking. 

Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Police speak to activists on Vine Street at an April 30 rally protesting inequities in the justice system
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Activist group Black Lives Matter Cincinnati organized the rally. Among attendees were long-time activist Iris Roley, who was a key participant in forging Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement which arose from civil unrest here14 years ago. That unrest was sparked by the 2001 shooting death of unarmed black man Timothy Thomas, the 16th person of color shot by Cincinnati Police over the course of a few years. Also in attendance were State Senator Cecil Thomas, police officer and Over-the-Rhine transit activist Derek Bauman, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and others active in the community.

Black Lives Matter Cincinnati activist Rashida Manuel speaks to the crowd at an April 30 rally
Nick Swartsell

Many attendees said they were concerned about wider disparities in the justice system beyond police actions.

“They are stealing our people off the streets. 2 million black people are in prison and no one is talking about it,” said rally attendee Alexander Shelton. Shelton, and many others, decried socioeconomic conditions that have led to higher rates of arrest, incarceration and wrongful conviction for people of color, including lack of educational and employment opportunities, the isolation of black urban neighborhoods and the stereotyping of black males as dangerous "thugs."

Shelton also called for an awareness of other struggles, including those in the LGBT and workers' rights communities. Several who took the bullhorn in front of the courthouse echoed that sentiment.

Many also came simply to honor the lives of people of color.

“We’re to remember,” said co-organizer Rashida Manuel. “We’re here to remember Freddie Gray. We’re here to remember Maya Hall, the black trans woman who was killed in Baltimore last month. We’re here to remember Mike Brown, we’re here to remember John Crawford, and so many others I can’t possibly name. We’re here to remember Timothy Thomas. We’re here because we’re tired.”

John Crawford III was shot two days before Brown in Beavercreek. His father, John Crawford Jr., attended the rally and spoke briefly to the crowd.
Nick Swartsell

This post has been corrected from an earlier version that misstated Freddie Gray's age.
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<![CDATA['The Salt of the Earth' Held Over at Mariemont Theatre]]>

Documentaries about photographers have the difficulty of making still photographs hold our interest in a medium that is about — obviously — moving pictures. The contemplation and meditation that successful still photographs elicit tend to get lost when your eyes and brain are trying to keep up with something traveling at 35 frames per second. It's like trying to admire an elegant home from a speeding train.

A recent (and very good) film about a photographer, Finding Vivian Maier, solved that problem by turning the story of why she was so overlooked in her lifetime into a mystery.

The current film The Salt of the Earth, about the questing, humanistic Brazilian-born photographer Sebastiao Salgado and directed by Wim Wenders with Salgado's son, Juliano, may be the best documentary about a photographer ever.

Salgado deserves it, too — his years-long, book-length projects chronicling the hardships humans endure in their search for work (Workers) and safety from war and famine (Migrations), as well as his elegiac images of the earth itself (Genesis), mark him as one of history's most important photographers. And he's still active at age 71.

Mariemont Theatre has just announced the film will be held over for a second week, starting tomorrow (Friday).

The Salt of the Earth accomplishes its profundity by beautifully melding the best traits of film — tracking shots, close-ups, essayist commentary and interviews presented as monologues, color cinematography, music — with deep feeling for the subject and his work. Wenders presents Salgado's monumental black-and-white photographs superbly. He slowly shifts between them and his own filmmaking. It deserved the recent Academy Award nomination it received.

Wenders is the German director of some classic narrative films (Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas) who, with his documentaries Pina and Buena Vista Social Club, showed he could find inventive and life-affirming ways to depict on film the work of other artists he respects.

Wenders in The Salt of the Earth can be solemn when it's called for — Salgado's work at times makes you wonder if the human race is doomed to cruelty to hardship. But it's also optimistic, as when chronicling how Salgado has restored to health his parched, dying family farm in Brazil.

We're fortunate that the Mariemont has elected to hold this film for a second week. I saw it last Monday and the crowd was small, so many of its intended audience might not yet be aware of it. It really deserves to be seen on a big screen. and it's rewarding for all those who take film and photography seriously.

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