CityBeat Blogs - Travel <![CDATA[Cincinnati Ranked No. 3 U.S. Staycation Destination]]> Cincinnati has finally been released from its icy prison, and the citizens have thawed out and are ready to start rebuilding their relationship with the sun. Time to buy a plane ticket for California, right? Nope. Time to explore our own beautiful city. 

A study done by WalletHub, an online personal finance resource, compared the 100 largest U.S. cities using 20 key metrics based on cost expenses and public attractions to find the best place to have a “staycation.” (A staycation is a break from working, but not traveling outside of your city.) Cincinnati was ranked third, officially winning the battle of Ohio for best city; Cleveland was ranked 13th and Columbus can be found on the latter half of the list — specifically at No. 66. 

Here are just a few of the ratings that went toward our third place win (as computed by the site): 
  • 1st: Public golf courses per capita 
  • 2nd: Swimming pools per capita 
  • 5th: Tennis courts per capita 
  • 14th: Museums per capita 
  • 19th: Spas per capita 
  • 63rd: Cost of a movie ticket 
  • 53rd: Cost of a maid service 
  • 1st: Number of parks per capita 
Can’t argue with the facts, especially the fact that Cincinnati has the most public golf courses per capita in the nation. We’ve got public golf courses by airports — Reeves golf course at the Lunken Airport Playfield, where you can play 18 for less than $40 — and we even have golf courses in our amusement parks — The Golf Center at Kings Island, where $41 gets you 18 holes and a cart. 

If golf isn’t your thing — after all, Cincinnati’s summers are hot and damp (Wallethub ranked Cincinnati weather at 33rd) — not to fret, Cincinnati is second in the nation for swimming pools per capita, so staycationers should pack a bathing suit. (Cleveland received the No. 1 rank for swimming pools, a small victory … but also one that opens up a world of jokes involving the Browns and pools.)

It is not a joke, however, to say Cincinnati has myriad beautiful parks, and now we have the statistics to prove it: We’re No. 1. Ault Park, Eden Park, Bellevue Park, Washington Park, Sawyer Point & Yeatman’s Cove, Burnet Woods — wherever you are in Cincinnati there’s a park. Sit on a bench and enjoy them. 

This study serves as an embodiment of what most Cincy natives say about the city: it’s up and coming. People that don’t even live here are telling us how good we have it. Put in a time request at work today and start planning a Cincinnati staycation. 

See the results for yourself here.
<![CDATA[Disney World's 'Star Wars' Weekends: A Mega-Fan's View]]>

When our summer interns go on family vacation, we can’t send them off without an assignment. So our resident Star Wars buff, Kenneth, gave us a rundown of Star Wars Weekend at Disney World.

At the age when most children began watching Aladdin, Hercules and Beauty and the Beast, I was lost in a galaxy far, far away. From those days on, my obsession has only grown. So, as you can imagine, I went to Disney World’s Star Wars Weekends years ago before Disney bought the franchise. People have voiced their opinions, which range from: “They’re ruining the series!” to “They’ll make it too kid-ish!” The list goes on. Opinions on that aside, Disney has been doing Star Wars Weekends for a while, since 1997. From what I remembered as a kid, Disney did a great job — I know I had fun.

Coming back after all of these years, with knowledge and wisdom of the series I’d acquired over the years in mind, I walked into Hollywood Studios half asleep from getting to the park so early. Needless to say, it was far more than I could’ve ever imagined. Disney has always been known for its showmanship and they really came through for this year’s festivities.

Disney had an all-star lineup of characters from the films and animated series, and fans could get autographs and watch them in different shows throughout the day. Just to name a few: Ray Park (Darth Maul), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan in the animated series) Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Warwick Davis (Wicket) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano from the animated series). The park also had dozens of other characters guests could take pictures with during the day. It was almost guaranteed that around every corner, someone would run into a character from the universe. Whether it was Darth Vader shrouded in Storm Troopers or Tusken Raiders, it was always a treat.

The party carries on through four shows daily Friday-Sunday and change slightly each weekend (this year, the event runs every weekend May 17-June 9). There’s always a show with the special guest of the week like Warwick Davis or Jeremy Bulloch — the talks were just interesting to sit in on. The master of ceremonies and host of each show was James Arnold Taylor, voice actor extraordinaire. He even demonstrated 200 different voices he could do. Impressive, I know. Taylor hosted a talk show as well, where he interviewed the visiting star and Ray Park each day. This could range from being hilarious to quite inspiring depending on the guest. Trust me on that, hearing a story of how Boba Fett messed up his lines on his first day is something to behold.

If a taste for stunts and action are up your alley, Ray Park had his own martial arts show where he went through different fighting styles with an array of weapons. This was also where you learned to loathe the children who got the chance to go on stage and do move sets with the master himself. I’m still seething from that.

Special merchandise could be found at the one stop Star Wars shop near the back of the park: the Darth Mall (clever title if I don’t say so myself). Collectibles, helmets, toys, Disney characters in Star Wars outfits — it was all there. Guests could truly lose themselves in a place like that. If you’re an unabashed fan like myself, you can’t help but spend oodles of money there. I went in wanting something small and spent more than $90. Needless to say, it was neigh impossible to leave without some form of paraphernalia in hand.

Now, to deflect, again, the opinions I may have about Disney buying Star Wars. I have to say, Star Wars Weekends are on par with some conventions I’ve heard of. When Disney gets a hold of something, they’ll flaunt it and make it something everyone can enjoy. These weekends are comparable to a sacred gathering for fans of the series. To see people who enjoy these movies as much as I do having as much fun as me was sublime. The energy there was almost tangible, especially during Memorial Day weekend. The park’s population swelled so much, it almost reached capacity. This weekend was full of characters, big name actors, festivities, themes snacks, souvenirs and ways to immerse fans in the universe itself. Guests could make themselves Storm Troopers — it was awesome. I digress, these weekends were nothing less than magical for me and, from what I could tell, those around me. Where else at this time could you see Boba Fett dance with Princess Leia in her slave outfit?

For this Star Wars fan, Disney did a great job setting the atmosphere of my favorite series. The entire park was flooded with Star Wars music until the park closed. The employees where all nice, the characters excellent and actors incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. The fireworks show was impressive, too — Disney literally ended the festivities with quite a bang.

<![CDATA[Tales From the Airport: What Travelers Don't See]]> The Cincinnati airport is located in another state — I’ll let you decide on how backwards that makes the city. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport, CVG, was a major hub for Delta Airlines but in the last few years the number of daily flights and employees has dropped. In 2009 the airport laid off close to 900 employees, and I was one of them. I was a baggage handler for two years, and boy do I have some stories which will be gotten to a little later. But first, there is some good news for CVG.

On March 15, DHL announced that $47 million would be invested in a new facility at its CVG hub. This new sorting facility will help meet international customer demands and add close to 300 jobs over the next 12 months. The date given for the facility to be operational is Nov. 2012.

DHL has been thriving compared to the downward spiral that is Delta. DHL has gone from 1,600 jobs to 2,000 in the span of three years and has invested around $105 million in the Cincinnati location since it was established in 2009. Not everything that happens at CVG is bad.

During my two years as a baggage handler I experienced a little bit of everything. From holding on to the wing of a plane to keep in from tipping during a wind storm, to seeing a drunk little person getting taken off a plane in handcuffs, to destroying a few bags. There is more to an airport than what passengers see in the concourses. Have you ever wondered where that guy in the orange vest was going when he disappeared behind a door? Ever thought about how your bag was being handled? Well, hopefully with a few of these stories those questions and more can be answered.

The Weird

During my time as a baggage handler, I saw some incredible things. At the same time, there were weird events that took place. These would occur like lightning; they happened quickly and would never strike the same place twice.

One of those events is about a worker stealing. He wasn’t stealing from the company, but stealing from passengers’ bags, more specifically, female passengers’ bags. As baggage handlers, we would load the bags up into the cargo bins of aircraft. These bins were only big enough for one person, and at times that one person would be in the bin for extended periods of time. Normal workers would write random sayings on the bin walls, or play a game on their phone, but this guy did something different.

When he was up in the cargo bin, he would go through the bags until he found women’s panties — clean or dirty. To show the high caliber of intelligence some of the people at the airport had, he kept all the underwear in his locker at work. There was no attempt to hide anything in his car or house; the underwear was in a bag in the break room. I’m not one to call someone stupid, but he deserves it for this one.

Did he get caught? Hell yes, he got caught. When our supervisors went through his locker, sure enough, there was the underwear. His explanation of it is comical on its own. “It’s for my girlfriend.” His girlfriend, if he had one, fluctuated in weight a lot because the underwear was different sizes. This doesn’t reflect on every baggage handler but it shows there are some strange people touching your bags.

The Disgusting

The job of a baggage handler is a dirty one. I came in contact with bags full of unwashed clothes, shook hands with people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom and cleaned out the restrooms. Ever wondered who cleans out the lavatory on an aircraft? Well, at CVG, that job falls to the baggage handlers. This task is worthy enough for Mike Rowe and then some.

When an aircraft needed to have its bathroom dumped, a handler would drive up next to the plane in the "lav cart." Imagine a blue electric cart that has never been washed, excrement has been spilled on it, it has a tank full of shit and the sun has been cooking its contents all day. I felt like I should have been wearing a Hazmat suit whenever I was around the damn thing. It made me throw up a little every time I was in the driver’s seat.

When a baggage handler dumps a lav, he or she drives the cart up to the aircraft, hooks up the foulest smelling hose to the aircraft and pulls a lever. What comes out, I’ll leave for the imagination. Once all the lovely contents are inside the cart, the “blue juice” is added, which is the liquid solution that you see when flushing an aircraft toilet.

Some handlers would dump a lav, not wash their hands and then go straight to loading bags. A person fresh from coming in close contact with human goodness would go right on touching, quite possibly, your possessions.

The Embarrassing

In the movie Fight Club the narrator tells of a policy about holding a passenger’s bag if it is vibrating. At CVG I never once saw a bag being taken because it was vibrating. What we did do was either slam the bag on the ground in hopes of shutting off the razor or toothbrush — not the smartest idea if it really was an explosive. Another way we handled a vibrating bag was to call the passenger down to the ramp where we would proceed to open it to find the cause of the vibration. If you have seen Fight Club you know what is coming next. Sometimes the bag would belong to a female passenger. When her bag would be opened a certain product would be rattling around on the inside. That happened to me once and while the passenger was red-faced, I had to walk away before I began to laugh in her face. Movies can teach you something every now and then.

There is a side to an airport that most people don’t know about. Sure, there are those zoo-like windows in the concourses that allow passengers to see outside, but that is just a glimpse. Does everyone want to know about what goes on behind those doors? Probably not. I’m not trying to scare people away from flying. In a way, an airport is similar to a restaurant. Taken at face value everything is great and everyone has a smile on their face, but behind closed doors disgusting, depraved and weird things are going on.

<![CDATA[On the Road(show) Again]]> Before Pawn Stars and Auction Hunters, there was Antiques Roadshow. This summer the OG appraisal show will film an episode in Cincinnati.

On July 21, the Roadshow will make a stop at an area venue (not yet announced) and hopefully make a few locals a little bit richer (but just a few — it's honestly more fun to watch when people's precious collectables aren't worth jack).---

Anyone interested in participating should apply online, by mail or by phone before April 16. Tickets are free but awarded by random drawing. The episode will air in 2013. Go here for details.

The British antique appraising program began in 1977 as a documentary, and two years later took on a life as its own show. PBS brought the idea to The States in 1997 and ever since, everyone from Grandmas to stoned channel surfers have enjoyed the program.

Unlike the current "how much is your junk worth?"-type shows, Antiques Roadshow features professional appraisers with specialties like furniture, pop culture and toys from auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's. One of the most valuable antiques to appear on the show was an Oklahoma man's collection of Chinese rhino horn cups from around the late 17th-early 18th century. Those bad boys were valued at $1-$1.5 million in 2011 (the episode aired just last month).

Other U.S. stops for 2012 include Boston, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Seattle. Antiques Roadshow stopped in Cincinnati once before, in 1998.

<![CDATA[ICYMI: Chippendales Edition]]>

I like to think I'm always up on the gossip, but some newsworthy items slip under my radar, like 98 Degrees' Jeff Timmons (my childhood fave - sorry, Nick) being a Chippendales performer! Chippendales at The Rio in Las Vegas features the Cincinnati boy as their hunky headliner all summer long, extending his stay (eyebrow wiggle) several times.

So, if you like combining the most homoerotic performance ever to be marketed to middle-aged women with prepubescent boy band fantasies, and who the hell doesn't, get your ticket soon! Jeff will only be flexing his "Hardest Thing" (sorry) through Labor Day.

                                               Or just watch this painfully awkward video of him posing for pictures!

Speaking of former child stars-turned-desperate, orange juiceheads, Baywatch alum and current Celebrity Rehab-er Jeremy Jackson has also made a bow tie-and-cuffs appearance. Some reports say he's addicted to fitness and would make excellent eye candy, so I'm guessing they haven't seen his stint on the VH1 show. Dude's addicted to German cattle steroids and cancer patient meds.

And if he's worried chemicals in bottled water will turn him gay, he clearly needs to give his Chippendales contract a second read.

<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List]]>

Pork-themed festivals are plentiful in Cincinnati, but this weekend marks the first ever Queen City Sausage Festival. Friday-Sunday, head down to Newport on the Levee to fill your belly with brats, metts, coneys and more creative sausagey combinations. To ensure a great time for all, Hudepohl and Christian Moerlein will be serving up brewskies and there will be live music, games and kids activities. Go here for festival hours and more info.

Looking for a fest with a little more history behind it? Schutzenfest is "Zinzinnati's" oldest festival, celebrating all things German since 1866. Enjoy different types of authentic German music and performances at the Kolping Center Friday-Sunday. Don't miss the opening parade and the crowning of King and Queen Sunday afternoon. For directions and a full event schedule, go here.

This weekend's Cincinnati Boutique Sale brings every fashion-savvy gal's favorite independent shops together under one roof - the space formerly occupied by Anthropologie at Rookwood Commons, to be exact. For a suggested donation of $5 (benefiting the Karen Wellington Foundation for living with breast cancer), you can browse clothing, shoes and accessories from top local boutiques such as Soho, The Wardrobe, Sara Benjamin's and more. Go here for all the details.

Laughter is good for you. The act of laughing can lower blood pressure, make your body more resilient and even work muscles in your face and abs. So say goodbye to that double-chin and beer belly with the help of comedian Steve White, who performs at Funny Bone on the Levee through Sunday. You may recognize White from several Spike Lee films, '90s television gold (Martin, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, need I go on?) or comedy clubs across America. Check out our interview with him here.

How about a little roadtrip? The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus is an engaging space that celebrates visual art, music, performance art, film and everything in between. Open Saturday and Sunday during the summer, the space's galleries are currently showing three sexually-charged multimedia exhibits. Read all about them here and make the trip soon - these exhibits end July 31. In addition, Wexner's Contemporary Screen series continues Friday and Saturday night. This series promises area and regional premieres, international film festival favorites and all kinds of flicks you certainly won't find at Showcase Cinemas. This weekend you can check out The Arbor, based on the life and autobiographical writings of the late British playwright Andrea Dunbar. Be sure to check out the Wexner Center Store because, well, museum gift shops are always sweet as hell. Go here for directions, hours and ticket info.

At Sunday's OTR Pool Party, you can enjoy all the fun of dumpster diving minus the empty pizza boxes and risk of hepatitis. Back in 2009, hipsters in Brooklyn gained attention by turning unused trash receptacles into little watering holes and it wasn't that gross because the dumpsters were cleaned, sealed and covered with pool liners. And although Cincinnati's always behind the times, we're finally catching on to the trend. With a $50 donation to Chris Seelbach's City Council campaign, you can get your swim on, enjoy free grilled grub and an open bar, get framed by the fabulous photoboothers at Framester and dance to tunes spun by the almost-too-sexy Diamonn Gurr. It's sure to be one of the biggest parties of the summer, so go here for all the deets and here to register and donate early so you can skip the line Sunday.

This is just a taste of all there is to do! Go here for all of our weekly recommendations.

<![CDATA[48 Hours In Nashville: Part Deux]]>

Go here to read part one.

Somehow Saturday morning Jeff and I woke up bright and early.  Flavor Flav must have sprinkled some magic dust on us the night before, because we weren't our usual hungover pieces of shit, writhing under covers 'til noon. For this special occasion, we headed to the famous Loveless Motel & Cafe (8400, Tennessee 100, Bellevue), a comfort food mecca and Nashville landmark. Hundreds of country musicians and otherwise famous humans hung their hats here when it was a hotel and have stopped in for grub since it's been a restaurant (seriously, there are countless autographed head shots covering every square inch of the walls).---


Saturday brunch is a busy time anywhere, but at Loveless, it's packed from the windows to the walls. Jeff and I were given a 45 minute-1 hour wait time, though it was probably more like an hour-and-a-half.  Fortunately, there are tons of little shops on the Loveless property and everyone knows spending more money totally helps you ignore your growling stomach.  We sauntered in and out of a bike shop, an antique spot and one little new-agey business that seemed plucked from Clifton's Ludlow Avenue. But the best place to wait it out was Hams & Jams Country Market.


This little gift shop sold Loveless goodies like T-shirts, coffee mugs and ash trays as well as kitchenware and bacon-related items.  Like bacon-scented air fresheners and -flavored toothpicks.  A little television played a montage of clips commemorating Carol Fay Ellison, best known in Nashville and beyond as "The Biscuit Lady." Carol Fay worked her way up from dishwasher to head cook and the keeper of Loveless' ultra-secret biscuit recipe. Before passing away in 2010, The Biscuit Lady cooked her treats for Martha Stewart, Conan O'Brien, Katie Couric, Al Roker and more.  She was a sassy character, never sharing any of her cooking secrets, but eager to boast that her recipe was the best. OK, watching this video was really interesting but it certainly didn't help the hunger pangs.


Finally, our buzzer went off, notifying us of an open table.  Our friendly server quickly brought our Mimosa-for-two and those sacred biscuits with homemade peach, strawberry and blackberry preserves.


                                                                           The Biscuit Lady ain't no liar.

Wow. After some carby sustenance, it was time to order. But doesn't it suck when you can't decide between breakfast or dinner food?  It was still early enough for eggs, but the sweet smell of barbecue that encompasses the entire property made my decision tough. Then, the gates of Heaven opened as three words glowed from the menu: Barbecue Pork Omelet. At first glance, I thought, "BBQ and eggs? Ew." But I immediately retracted that thought and ordered the omelet with a side of hashbrown casserole. Jeff put his man pants on and selected the Southern Sampler breakfast, including country ham, bacon, sausage, eggs and sausage gravy with biscuits.  Surely, we thought, this is going to take another 30 minutes to come out of the kitchen. And we were cool with that.  But no. No more than 10 minutes later, the breakfast gods bestowed upon us a Southern feast:


                                                                                             Oh, that omelet looks goo-


                                                                                    Holy shit, that's half a pig!

This food and service was unbelievable.  I really think that top secret recipe might have been laced with LSD, because periodically, we'd just burst out laughing between bites.  It was euphoric.

Needless to say, there was a recovery period afterward. Napping (and perhaps being entranced by a Toy Story marathon on hotel premium cable) did cause us to miss out on a few acts at day two of Rites of Springs.  Sorry, Young Jesus, David Mayfield Parade, The Features and Madi Diaz. I'm sure you were awesome. Though lines to get in the fest were long once again, we did get into Vanderbilt in time to see Dance Punk duo Matt and Kim. Besides their catchy, drum-heavy numbers, they also played Hip Hop classics "Jump on it" and "Let Me Clear My Throat."



As they ended their set with their biggest hit, "Daylight," Jeff and I made out way as close to the stage as possible. We were most excited about the next act - Psycadelic Folk gypsies, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Setting up for a 10-piece group can take a while, and the music between sets was provided by a scratched CD filled with plenty of sing-a-longs like Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" and Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Members of ES&MZ and Old Crow Medicine Show filtered onto stage and then, finally, we saw Alex Ebert (sporting his signature junky Jesus look) and Jade Castrinos (adorable as always), the whimsical lead vocalists and probably the most recognizable members.

The crew opened with their mystifying hits "40 Day Dream" and "Janglin" (which you might have heard in the recent Ford Fiesta commercial). They were some of the best live performers I've seen, perfect for an outdoor festival-esque venue.



Alex then addressed the crowd, snickering, "I heard you singing before, you can't sing now? You knew every fuckin' word of those songs playing before we started." He made a few occasional tongue-in-cheek, but not totally dick remarks throughout the set, proving that while he'd got the crackhead shimmy move down, he's pretty lucid and probably a normal dude. Example: "What is this, Vanderbilt College?" [Various "Woo Hoo"s and shouts about it being a University, not a college] "When I was in school, that last thing I'd do was cheer for it."



After a few mellower tunes, one of which Alex sung from inside the crowd, he began to speak about how you're not really alive until you learn how to whistle. Fans, of course, knew this meant the last song would be "Home," which you can see in adorable father-daughter-cover form here.



           "Jade?" "Alexander..."

Even taking into account the dudes tripping on acid for the first time behind me, I could have listened to them replay that set as soon as they'd finished. Hippie Cult Rock perfection.

The night's headliner, and the act to draw the largest crowd by far was Kid Cudi. Let me say this: I really wanted to like him.  I'm not totally down with contemporary Hip Hop, but I was ready for a fun show.  The throngs of teenagers at Vanderbilt will probably disagree, but Cudi was kinda lame. The fact that I was about 4,000 feet away probably didn't help.


                                                                         Kid Zombi

He had a decent DJ and his production was top notch, but I really didn't care for the dude.  On top of his songs being kind of meh,  dude wouldn't stop talking about himself.  At one point, he said, "So I know y'all probably heard I quit weed.  Yeah, it's true, I had to. It was getting in the way of my life.  If you're one of those people that can take a hit at a party, have a couple drinks with friends and not keep alcohol in your house, that's OK.  But that's not me.  I gotta focus on my daughter now." He then went on to sing "Marijuana," punctuating the stoner tune with shouts of "I miss it!" Probably anyone who prefaces a love letter to "pretty green bud" like that is gonna get a thumbs down from me.  Sorry.

After his rant about how hard it is for artists like him, we felt it was time to take a note from Edward Sharpe and head home. To the hotel at least. Though we weren't thrilled with the culmination of Rites, it was still totally worth the trip.

Don't miss out on our last day in Nashville - stay tuned for part three!

<![CDATA[48 Hours In Nashville: Part One]]> I spent a recent weekend in Music City attending Rites of Spring, an annual music festival presented by Vanderbilt University. My boyfriend Jeff and I were on a mission — a mission to cram in as much Nashville goodness as possible in a short weekend.--- (Side note: please don't be mean about my shitty photos and/or coverage. I went as a civilian, and it's hard to get get that camera focused when you've got a couple (dozen) drinks in you.)

We entered Nashville around 2 p.m. Friday, making our first stop at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (123 Ewing Dr. #3, Brooklyn Heights). This hole-in-the-wall gem was recommended by foodie friends and local dining guides and is rumored to be featured on an upcoming episode of Man v. Food. Prince's features a simple menu posted above a walk-up ordering window:  a quarter (breast or leg), half and whole fried chicken and a handful of sides. Drinks are obtained from a vending machine. The dining room consists of around 7 booths.

What makes Prince's chicken special is it isn't tossed in sauce, it's dry-seasoned. Spice levels range from mild, medium, hot and extra hot. Thankfully, we had been warned about the spicy factor. This isn't old-lady-in-Cincinnati-spicy — Prince's seasoning is hot from the first bite and packs a punch long after you're done eating. At the risk of sounding like a total puss, I ordered my chicken medium and I felt like I was pregnant with a litter of habanero pepper puppies for a good hour afterward — and I love spicy food. We ordered two breasts, served on white bread with pickles. And - seriously, there's no other way to say this — it's fucking delicious. 


                                                             Pictured: mouthgasm

Always a bit leery of meat, I've never been a big fan of fried chicken or anything with bones still in it. There was even a point in my life when I peeled off the fried skin. For shame! The chicken at Prince's is perfectly crisp and crunchy on the outside and unbelievable juicy and tender inside. Chicken quarters are served with one plastic fork, which you'd think could never navigate a fried bone-in chicken. Wrong! No knife needed for this fall-off-the-bone bird. Even the pickles and bread, which I'd usually toss, served as tasty aids in combating the heat of the spice.

Full of chicken and sweating spices, we checked into the Millennium Maxwell House (2025 Rosa L Parks Blvd., just outside Downtown). It was a decent hotel with a comfy bed, lots of cheesy country music decor and a ubiquitous gift shop.

Gates at Rites of Spring were set to open at 4 p.m., but shitty weather literally rained on that parade. I obsessively checked twitter for updates, until a tornado watch brought the definitely cancellation of Futurebirds, Pimps of Joytime and Jerrod Niemann. The rain kept pouring, and I wasn't about to get struck by lightning waiting in line for a concert that might not happen.

Once Vanderbilt's site announced that gates would tentatively open at 10:20, Jeff and I hopped on the complimentary hotel shuttle and headed over to campus. 

The lines to get in were crowded and slow, though if you've been to Bonnaroo or a similarly-sized fest, nothing seems that bad. Rain continued to drizzle as Sara Bareilles, who was originally slated to play around 8 p.m., began her set around 10:30 p.m. Bareilles, best known (judging by the amount of girls singing in line) for "Love Song" wrapped up as we made our way through security.  Each person of age was allotted six 12-ounce cans of beer, so every cooler and ID needed to be checked. I was surprised by the amount of Bud Light sixers passing through. As snooty as a large portion of the crowd was, you'd think they'd have better taste in beer. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our nice varietals of Blue Moon, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and (reppin' Cincinnati) Little Kings - now in 12-ounce skinny cans!

Public Enemy was the next act to take stage. Seriously. Despite the weather and the murmuring of comments such as "I don't get it! Which one's Flavor Flav?" and "Why do they think we're all from Nashville? Don't they know this is a private university?" the crowd was pretty receptive. Once Flav displayed his signature neckwear, the show really took off.


"I think it's the one in the middle!"

Check D. and crew performed a short but sweet set of their hits including "Shut Em Down," "Fight the Power" and "Don't Believe the Hype" with a live band and the fantastic DJ Lord. And if you could just get over the bitter irony of telling preppy Pre-Meds being played at this particular venue, the show wasn't just fun, it actually sounded good!

At one point, Flav came out with a couple boys, whom one can only assume were two of his 28 seven children. 


                                                  Flavor Flaaaaaaaav...needs a paycheck.

He then proceeded to fill tomorrow's world leaders with words of wisdom, including a random sputtering of "Do not be a robot!" throughout a few songs, and ending the show with, "Put two fingers in the air. What's that mean? Peace. Now put those fingers together. What's that mean? Togetherness. Now make a fist. With peace and togetherness comes power."


                                                                                    Whatever you say, Foofy Foofy.

Headliners The National switched up the mood a bit and crooned the crowd into a mellow state. The set was really poorly lit, with lights behind the band, but no spotlights. The guys went on after midnight and were unfortunately cut short — by having their lights and sound shut off before their set was finished. Boo, Vandy! What they did get to play was done well and they certainly made Cincinnati proud.

Here are some mediocre photos of them:




Stay tuned for more scenes from Rites of Spring and around Nashville!