CityBeat Blogs - Reviews http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-33-23.html <![CDATA[The Clean and the Unclean of Comedy]]>

Eddie Murphy’s best story about his early success has been told in various forms, but this is my personal favorite. 

Murphy, of course, became a sensation in the early ’80s as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and with his frenetically urban stand-up act. He then showed his power as a box-office draw with 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. In 1984, Murphy combined his two greatest assets — his viscerally funny stand-up act and his undeniable film presence — into his first concert movie, the well-received Delirious.

After the film’s release, Murphy got a call from Bill Cosby, one of his comedy idols, who chastised Murphy for his incessant use of foul language and cautioned him that his career would be short-lived if he continued to work “blue.” “Blue” as a comedy term reportedly dates to vaudeville’s Keith circuit and club managers’ practice of censoring comedians by informing them via blue envelopes of objectionable material that had to be removed from their acts (all of which dates further back to the Puritans’ Blue Laws, a moral code that was printed on blue-tinted paper).

Murphy was devastated by Cosby’s scolding and called his friend and raunchy comedy mentor Richard Pryor to get his take on the situation. After hearing Murphy’s tale, Pryor, referencing one of Cosby’s ubiquitous commercial endorsements of the time, responded, “Tell that motherfucker to have a Coke and a smile.”

Murphy’s act, Cosby’s reaction and Pryor’s response to Cosby’s reaction is a passion play that has been re-enacted in the comedy world since Lenny Bruce paved the way for shockingly honest humor with his obscenity conviction in 1964. In the nearly half century since then, comedians have found massive success by finding their niche on either end of the spectrum (Brian Regan, Greg Hahn on the clean side; Louis CK, Lisa Lampanelli on the dirty) or deftly straddling the boundary between family friendly and fucking filthy (the late George Carlin and Patton Oswalt spring to mind). 

Two current examples of the clean/dirty paradigm are the wildly funny and relatively chaste Jim Gaffigan and the equally hilarious and breathtakingly profane Doug Stanhope.

On Gaffigan’s August-released eighth album, Mr. Universe (the concert video of which is currently available to view on Gaffigan's website for $5), the hue-challenged honcho of hilarity follows his standard operating procedure of turning a slightly jaundiced and definitely twisted eye toward life’s mundanities and finding the unlikeliest of laughs. He mines a natural vein of humor from the fact that he has four children, but in ways that Bill Cosby probably never imagined (“Four kids … if you want to know what it’s like to have a fourth, just imagine you’re drowning and then someone hands you a baby” or “I have more pictures of my children than my father ever looked at me”).


And Gaffigan is a genius at finding the funny in food; his love of bacon is renowned, as evidenced by his lengthy discourse on 2009’s uproarious King Baby, but on Mr. Universe, Gaffigan gets both McDonald’s and Subway in his crosshairs, with the former actually earning a measure of praise and the latter obtaining a fairly thorough thrashing — “I think the toppings are free to distract us from the fact that we shouldn’t be paying for the meat. They’re so stingy with that nasty ass meat at Subway, they peel it off like it’s from a wad of ones or something. ‘Here’s three slices of ham, get yourself something nice’ ” and “What level of delusion are we in where we view a meatball sub as a healthy alternative to a hamburger? How do you make a meatball sub? You roll five hamburgers into balls, cover them in cheese and put them on a bun that holds five hamburgers. Eat fresh.”

Like the best observational comics, Gaffigan’s genius lies in amplifying standard issue eccentricity to an unbearably odd level — like wondering how long one should retain a sock after losing its mate, then admitting he has 80 single socks. Gaffigan further caricaturizes his comedic persona by using a variety of vocal inflections and accents that range from hilarious to slightly grating; he has long used a whispered falsetto as a device to anticipate audience criticism and now he even works imagined criticism of the voice itself into his set. 

While Gaffigan will often will drop a mild obscenity or two into the proceedings (“Scarlett Johanssen got a haircut, why do I give a shit?”), Mr. Universe, like the bulk of Gaffigan’s catalog, easily translates to midday or late night television talk shows.

Doug Stanhope is a completely different kettle of filthy fish. His just-released new CD/DVD package, Before Turning the Gun on Himself, is predictably rife with the abusively frank language for which Stanhope is famous. Before Turning the Gun is so caustically themed that one might consider donning a hazmat suit before pressing “play.” It also happens to be one of the drop-dead funniest comedy sets of the year.


Stanhope wastes little time setting up the first portion of Gun, which is essentially a rolling rant about the industry of treating addiction, his primary targets being Dr. Drew Pinsky and AA. The album’s second piece is titled “Dr. Drew is to Medicine What David Blaine is to Science.” 

Being agnostic, Stanhope finds the God-based 12-step programs associated with AA and many rehab programs to be less than satisfactory. On the album he rants, “Even your religious friends do not want to hear about God during a medical diagnosis. That’s the last word you ever want to hear from a doctor — ‘Doc, my fucking lymph nodes are swollen out of my neck, I look like a bullfrog, I’m shitting blood with clumps in it, I can’t keep food down.’ ‘Ooh, sounds like someone needs a higher power.’ ‘Can’t we do some blood work first? A series of antibiotics? A CAT scan?’ ‘Nope, get on your knees and pray, faggot.’ ‘You’re a doctor?’ ‘Yup, and I’m on TV, too.’ AA makes Scientology look credible.”

Stanhope even insists at one point that “there’s no such thing as addiction, on the most minor levels … there’s only things that you enjoy doing more than life.”

Stanhope really gets going on the subject of people bitching about the economy or their simple dissatisfaction with the place they live. On “Just Move,” he rightly notes that it only requires a bus ticket to change your surroundings and recounts hearing an autoworker in Flint, Mich., complaining about Obamanomics making it impossible to earn a living. 

“You make cars and you still don’t leave,” Stanhope observes. “That’s like being a prisoner forced to make keys to your own cell for a living and you never put two and two together. Just move to where there’s work.” 

He continues that line of thought on “Simple Man,” where he compares having children to a bad bet and hacks on the Flint autoworker by again rightly noting, “I don’t think the economy is a new problem here; I think Roger and Me came out in like 1986, yet you’re bitching about Obamanomics exporting jobs.”

Stanhope gets hellbound rough on “Keynesian Economic Theory as Applied to Private Sector Independent Contractors,” where he advances the idea that prostitutes fare the worst in tough times since they’re already doing degrading things for money, and that a hooker’s concession to recession would be to offer anal services to her clientele. 

What follows is a nauseating and heart-stoppingly hilarious roller coaster ride of sexual references from Stanhope and his fictional streetwalker, featuring such phrases as “sour milk-smelling cock,” “gravelly good morning Starbucks shit” and “ass kegels.” In alluding to anal sex, Stanhope (through his whore character) uses the euphemism “shit pussy” or “ass pussy” no less than six times in two minutes before breaking into an erudite refutation of Keynesian economic theory. It’s breathtaking, really.

Elsewhere, Stanhope advocates registering as a sex offender to avoid having your friends bring their children to your parties, describes his favorite medicinal past-time (“Sometimes I’ll take two Xanax and two laxatives at bedtime and I’ll play chicken in my sleep. It’s like three highs at once, because it starts out as a downer, turns into gambling, wakes up as a huge amphetamine”) and gives a brilliant example of his perception of the laziness of songwriters, describing some self-righteous artistic types as “a bucket of cunts.”

 If you’ve got a sturdy callous built up on your indignation bone, Stanhope is one of the funniest and most incisive stand-ups around. And if you are easily offended, Stanhope has a ready answer for your thin skin. 

Well before admitting that “the most terrifying part, when you realize I’m not even a bright person, but I’m still probably in the top three percent of the smartest people on this planet, and I’m pretty fucking dumb,” he defends his use of any and all offensive language by describing it simply (and accurately) as “a sound you make with your mouth” and further posits “if you’re offended by any word in any language, it’s probably because your parents were unfit to raise a child.” 

This explanation, which gets even better, by the way, is placed in the context of a bit Stanhope titled “Giant Black Cock.” This is one funny motherfucker.

So what conclusion can we draw from the above compare/contrast critique? Perhaps it’s that people who are easily offended would be advised to stick to the likes of Jim Gaffigan and avoid Doug Stanhope like an atomically mutated STD. But it might also be that funny is funny, regardless of how many prurient phrases and ideas are peppered throughout its presentation. People who like dirty as well as clean humor are laughing twice as much as you straight-backed chucklefucks with rancid pickles jammed sideways up your twats. 

I think maybe that’s the point.

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List: 3/2-3/4]]> Bockfest is upon us! The annual celebration of Cincinnati's beer brewing history kicks off tonight with the Bockfest Parade, stepping off at 6 p.m. Organizers are keeping an eye on the weather, so check back with their site and Facebook page just in case. Even if the weather gets real ugly, just stop by one of the dozen participating venues where admission is free and beer is a-flowin'. Tons of special events coincide with the fest: Tonight, Park + Vine hosts its second annual veenie roast tonight (veggie hot dogs on delicious Mayday pretzel buns), Japps will feature a dance party tonight and Saturday, a Craft Menagerie takes over Arnold's Saturday and Washington Platform has a Bockfest Brunch Sunday, to name a few. And remember, you're not just getting your drink on, you're supporting Cincinnati history!

Covington's Carnegie Center presents its sixth annual Art of Food show, opening tonight. As you might've guessed, this art exhibit is centered around all things edible. The reception features beautiful culinary creations (that you can actually eat) by everyone from BonBonnerie to La Poste, Queen City Cookies to Taste of Belgium. Admission is a little steep ($60 at the door for non-members), but you'll leave with your left brain and stomach both very satisfied. Admission after the reception is free. Get details here.

It's always exciting when a new exhibit comes to the Contemporary Arts Center, and their opening parties are always a blast. Saturday the CAC welcomes two new art shows: I surrender, dear, Dasha Shishkin's first solo museum exhibit and Spectacle: The Music Video, curated by creative collective Flux. Read more about the artists here and check out our preview of Spectacle here. Music videos as art. Super cool.

The opening reception kicks off at 8 p.m. In addition to checking out the artwork, electronic musician/wizard Dan Deacon will perform 8-9 p.m. If you haven't heard of him, here's a preview:



Following the original performance is a DJ set 'til 11 p.m. The party is free and there will be a cash bar. Get more info here.

If you didn't score tickets to tonight's sold out Black Keys show, there are plenty of other music options. Eli's BBQ on Riverside Drive hosts Downtown Country Band tonight at 10 p.m. Tickets are $12. And really, any concert that also features barbecue is probably a sure bet. The Harlequins hosts an album release show Saturday at Mayday in Northside. Peep our interview with the crew. There are tons of other live music shows this weekend. Find them all on our music blog.

This not enough for you? There are tons of other happenings this weekend. Arts? We got 'em. Theater? You bet. Foul-mouthed, inxtoicated comedians? Of course. Just check out our To Do page for all your fun-having needs.

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<![CDATA[The Ups and Downs of Indie Video Games]]>

I love video games. Always have, always will. I grew up watching Mario stomp koopas, Link slay moblins and Kirby inhale enemies to copy their powers. Games will always have a special place in my heart.

As much as I like the classics and the stuff being released by the big name companies, however, recently my attention's been diverted to a select few independent companies and developers. People say these past few recent years have been some of the best times for indie developers to get into the gaming market, and, frankly, I agree with them. As of late the indie game market's really been booming, and it's no wonder why. There are some really great indie games out there to find if one knows where to look. And unlike pricey console games, many of these independently developed games can be downloaded onto your computer for as low as $20, $10 or even $5.

Given, these games might not have the newest, most-cutting edge graphics, and might be relatively simple when compared to some of the things we see Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft releasing. However, that doesn't change the fact that they are good games nonetheless. And many gamers seem to agree with me.

One shining example of an indie game that's risen from obscurity is Dokutsu Monogatari, better known by is Americanized name, Cave Story. The game was originally made as a freeware 2D platform-adventure game by independent developer Daisuke Amaya (art-name "Pixel") in 2004. He developed the game in his spare time, intending it to be a tribute to classic popular titles he had played in his youth, such as Castlevania and Metroid.

After it's initial release on the Internet, Cave Story slowly gained popularity as a indie game, and was praised by many gamers for its compelling story and gameplay. Fans of the game eventually developed an English translation, spreading the game even further.

Later on, Nicalis, an independent video game company, worked with Amaya to bring an updated version of Cave Story with new modes of gameplay and improved graphics to Nintendo's WiiWare service in 2010.

Since then the popularity of Cave Story has skyrocketed, leading Nicalis to work with Nintendo to bring yet another updated version of the game to the Nintendo 3DS under the title of Cave Story 3D.

And Cave Story is just one of the many success stories told about independently developed games these days. Several other popular titles have risen from the depths of obscurity to become commonly known titles to gamers everywhere: Minecraft, Super Meat Boy and Angry Birds just to name a few.

Unfortunately, there are also risks involved for gamers who chose to invest their money in independent games. A method many indie developers seem to be taking recently is releasing a “beta-version” of their game over platforms such as Steam for a low price, with the promise of free updates as the game is further developed. A prime example of one such game is Re-Logic's Terraria, a 2D “sandbox” game featuring exploration, crafting, resource gathering, and combat with a variety of different creatures.

Upon its initial release in January 2011, Terraria's sales boomed. Over 1 million copies of the game were sold, gamers being drawn in both by the unique style of gameplay and the prospect of future updates to the game. Head developer of the game, Andrew Spinks, made regular posts about planned features to the game in his blog, keeping the community informed about what they could expect in future updates.

Upon Terraria's version 1.1.2 update, which included new enemies, biomes, resources and a slew of new items to be discovered and crafted, popularity of the game boomed even more, resulting in the game being named as the No. 1 of 2011's Indie of the Year Player's choice.

Unfortunately for fans, Spinks suddenly decided to halt production of Terrarria, announcing in his blog on Feb. 21 that there would be no further updates to the games despite the fact that the several planned features that had been announced in his blog. Many members of Terraria's online community protested, feeling that the game had been cut down in its prime, and had yet to reach its full potential.

Sadly, however, this seems to be a route that many independent game companies take. Several indie games seem to be halted before they are considered to be “finished.” Lacking the resources that larger game companies have, independent developers either run out of money for production, or simply become burned out, no longer having the time or interest to continue working on their projects. It's disappointing for the fans who pay to play these games in the early stages of development, however, it's also a risk people take when they decide to play independent games.

Is it enough to scare people away from the indie game market? Certainly not, as there are still many gems out there to be found if one is willing to spend the time and money. Indie gaming is on the rise. And things can only get better as time goes on.

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<![CDATA[Music, Movies and the Not So Mundane]]>

It was announced today that Actor/Director/Humanitarean/Total Heartthrob Jeff Spicoli Sean Penn is receiving the 2012 Joel Siegel Award at the 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 12 for the relief work he has done in Haiti. This will be only the fifth Joel Siegel Award given by the BFCA, and dedicated “to those who understand, as Joel did, that the greatest value of celebrity is as an enhanced platform to do good works for others."

“While it was heartening to see such an outpouring of support and aid for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the long-term commitment made by Sean and his organization is particularly notable," said BFCA president Joey Berlin.---

George Clooney will write, direct and star in a film adaptation of the WW2-set heist drama The Monuments Men, a non-fiction book written by Robert M. Edsel that details the U.S. mission to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.

J.J. Abrams says he “did not fight for the 3-D” in his upcoming Star Trek sequel. In fact, Abrams says “[i]t was something the studio wanted to do. I didn’t want to do it.”

The Mars Volta have confirmed that they are almost finished with their new album, which should be released later this year. It will be the first release from the former At The Drive-In stars since 2009’s Octahderon.

Paul McCartney has revealed a tracklist and artwork for his February release, Kisses on the Bottom.

Lana Del Rey has released a tracklist for her hotly anticipated Born to Die. Also attached is a video of Lady Del Rey performing “Video Games” live on Jonathan Ross’s show.

Despite breaking up late last year, The White Stripes are set to release a special 7-inch vinyl called Outtakes. The record will feature early versions of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Let’s Build a Home.” 

A man by the name of Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was arrested last Thursday on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana. Yes, his legal name is really Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. His list of activities on the Facebook include “eating,” “standing,” “walking” and “diamond.”

Papa John’s has had to fire one of its cashiers at a New York location after a customer’s receipt identified her as “lady chinky eyes.” The Asian-American customer, Minhee Cho, a communications manager at a nonprofit investigative journalism group called ProPublica, tweeted a picture of the receipt with the caption, “just FYI my name isn’t ‘lady chinky eyes.’ ”

Happy Birthday to Nina Dobrev, Joely Richardson, J.K. Simmons, Joey Lauren Adams, Dave Matthews, Jimmy Page, Rhoda Griffis and the late Lee Van Cleef, one of the baddest dudes to ever grace the silver screen. No love to A.J. McLean, one of lamest dudes ever to defecate on the microphone.

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<![CDATA[Music, Movies and the Not So Mundane]]>

It turns out that an alleged old Radiohead demo called “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge” is actually called “Sit Still” and not by Radiohead at all. It’s by Toronto bakery owner Christopher Stopa. “As nice as it is, because I like Radiohead, and on some technical level it means I sang [the song] well, I don’t really want to be known as the person that was mistaken [for] Radiohead,” Stopa said in an interview with the Torontoist. You can stream the single and read the full story here.---

Here is an interview with Tanya Morgan, the once trio, now duo behind Brooklynati. Brooklyn-born Von Pea and Cincinnati rapper Donwill talk life after Ilyas and what’s next for Tanya Morgan.

Matt Damon has dropped out of what would be his directorial debut, but could still star in the film that was penned by writer Dave Eggers (Away We Go) and The Office star John Krasinski. Frances McDormand is also set to star in the untitled film.

Max Gregory Warren, a songwriter from Pennsylvania, is suing Wiz Khalifa for fraud and deceit, copyright infringement and civil conspiracy for allegedly stealing his concept for “Black and Yellow.” Warren claims that his song “Pink and Yellow” was copyrighted back in 2008 and, according to the lawsuit, Khalifa “engaged in a scheme to defraud plaintiff out of the fruits of his copyright of the subject song.” Warren is suing for $2,375,000 in damages.

Jessica Chastain (The Debt, The Tree of Life) is in talks to star in Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming film about the death of Osama bin Laden.

The family of a commodities trader who died while partying in Las Vegas are accepting $350,000 in damages to end a federal lawsuit that claims the man’s internal organs went missing between the time of the autopsy and the body being returned back his home in London.

This happened yesterday:


Happy Birthday to Norman Reedus, Rowan Atkinson, Nicolette Scorsese, John Singleton, Frank Sivero, Richard Norton and the late Loretta Young.

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<![CDATA[The Show-down: Scary TV Edition]]>

Television can be scary year-round (ex. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Rachel Zoe Project, Breaking Bad), but terror gets turned up a notch this time of year. With Halloween around the corner, here are some horror-ific shows to check out.---

The Walking Dead

Whether or not you're a zombie aficionado or a fan of the original comic, this show is a must if you want some squeeze-your-friends, cover-your-eyes, nightmares-for-days television enjoyment. TWD is one of the most graphic, gory and emotionally intense shows on right now, and it's truly addictive. The show follows a group of people surviving day-to-day amidst the zombie apocalypse. Few other humans seem to be alive, so in addition to worrying about flesh-eating demons, these survivors struggle to find shelter, food, safety and sanity. Catch up on this season's previous episodes online; new eps air Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Go here to read my review of the second season premiere.

SCARE FACTOR: 4/5
This is not a jumpy, in-your-face kind of haunt, but usually a slower, more "impending doom" kind of terror. Expect gruesome scenes with humans and walkers. Remember no characters are safe and sometimes those zombies are the least of their worries.



American Horror Story

This new FX show puzzled me for weeks with its eerie teaser previews that featured odd snippets like someone playing a person's belly like a cello, and a person in a full-body latex S&M suit, with a giant baby bump. WTF? Having now premiered, the show, from the creator of Nip/Tuck and co-creators of Glee, follows a family who's moved into a haunted house. Sure, it sounds banal, but it's entertaining, intriguing and extremely creepy. Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton star as a tested couple - after experiencing a full-term miscarriage, the wife catches her husband sleeping with one of his students. The two, along with their high school-aged daughter, move across the country to California to start over. They must deal with infidelity, finding romance again, oh - and apparently a bunch of people have died horrible deaths in their new home. Best wishes!

Like TWD, this is definitely not for everyone. The show mixes sex, ghosts and a terrifying basement. The scene-stealer is certainly Jessica Lange who plays the odd neighbor, seemingly of another era, who is mother to a grown child with Down's Syndrome who is constantly drawn to the house.

New episodes are on FX Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Go here to watch clips and trailers.

SCARE FACTOR: 3/5
While there are some seriously scary moments (brief scenes and quick flashes of "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!"), the overall feeling of AHS is disturbing. Reality is a bit unclear at this point - who is alive, who is an apparition, what happened in the past and how is that affecting the characters now? We'll have to stick around to find out. On the bright side, many freaky scenes are followed by Dylan McDermott's buttcheeks.

The old-school intro sets a pretty good stage for the show:


Grimm

The writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer took on this fairy tale-crime-drama, which premieres on NBC Oct. 28. The show puts a supernatural spin on the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Network television is never my favorite, but with a description of "X-Files meets Buffy," it's sure to bring in an audience.



SCARE FACTOR: 1/5?
Since it hasn't premiered yet it's hard to tell, but I'm betting this will offer more campy fun than true fright.

The Simpsons

Growing up, watching The Simpsons on Sunday night was a ritual. Now, I hear other kids weren't allowed to watch it and went to church instead. Either way, everyone has enjoyed a good Treehouse of Horror, or The Simpsons' Halloween episode. They're epic. This year's debuts Oct. 30, with everyone's favorite God-fearing neighbor, Ned Flanders channeling his inner Dexter. Go here to watch the clip.

SCARE FACTOR: 2/5
Most adults just see the humor in these Simpsons specials, but I remember being kind of afraid of those drooly aliens as a little kid. There is certainly plenty of animated gore and violence to go around.

Fear Fest

AMC's annual Halloween promotion continues through Monday, offering up horror films and shows new and old every day. This year's Fear Fest is hosted by zombie Godfather, George Romero. The remainder of the week promises various Halloween films, Survival of the Dead, Bride of Frankenstein, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more. Check out the full schedule here.

SCARE FACTOR: 2-5/5, depending on the program

Tune in for all the Halloween action and remember, if you things get too intense, just switch over to a Project Runway marathon.

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List: 10/21-10/23]]> Happy Friday, y'all! Here's what's going down this weekend: ---

Kicking off the weekend is for algernon, performing with The Minor Leagues at Northside Tavern tonight. Read our interview with the guys here.

Northside continues to live up to its reputation as an arts and culture mecca as the Factory Square Fine Arts Festival takes over the American Can Lofts space Saturday and Sunday. Browse mini art galleries in shipping containers, enjoy live music and get your shop on when The City Flea makes an encore appearance (Saturday only).

Books by the Banks returns to Duke Energy Center Saturday, bringing more than 100 local, regional and national authors to the city. Listen in on lectures, buy books for readers young and old and meet some excellent writers. Go here to read our interview with featured author Dennis Lehane and get BBTB details.

Everyone loves dressing up for Halloween, even pets, right?


RIGHT?!

Pimp out your pooch and show him off at MainStrasse's Paw-rade Sunday. This year's theme is works of art and famous artists, so strap on a beret, grab your palate and turn your pup into a masterpiece! Lucy, the mayor of Rabbit Hash, is the Paw-rade's Grand Marshall and awards will be given for best original, store-bought (eye-roll) and themed costumes. Show-dog moms and dads can get more info here.

Read our reviews of Know Theatre's Gruesome Playground Injuries, Ensemble Theatre's Ghost-Writer and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Macbeth, all shows continuing through this weekend.

For those who just can't wait until next weekend for Halloween fun, there are plenty of events, terrifying attractions, family-friendly activities and more happening right now. Read ScaryBeat for all kinds of event listings, haunted house reviews and even a locally-inspired scary story.

For all our To Do picks, visit our new CityBeat Recommends page. It's back! There you'll find art openings, theater shows, comedy acts and more to do this weekend and beyond…unless the (re-scheduled) rapture really happens today. Wah wah.

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<![CDATA['The Walking Dead' Returns With a Vengeance]]>

Nightmare Season is upon us as AMC's chilling zombie show The Walking Dead returns. A record-setting 7.3 million viewers tuned in last night to see Rick, Lori, Shane and the gang continue their apocalyptic journey.---


Season 2 Trailer (obviously don't watch if you haven't seen the first season but plan to):


Last year's debut season proved that a graphically gory television series about zombies could be a success when put in the right hands. With comic creator Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont (director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist) on board, the show has a cinematic quality and, frankly, scares the hell out of me.

Side note: Last night, I dreamed about an Ikea filled with "walkers" and I had to defend myself by crushing a zombie's skull with an Xbox controller. This show plants some seriously heavy dream seeds. Proceed with caution.

Season 2 picked up right where the first left off - the crew, after narrowly escaping the explosion of the Centers for Disease Control, decide to leave Atlanta for a more rural area. Rick Grimes teases us about what the lone CDC-er, Dr. Jenner, whispered his ear in last season's finale, but doesn't reveal the secret. Not long after their departure, the group runs into trouble (car trouble, zombie trouble, human trouble, you name it) along the way. The 90-minute premiere, "What Lies Ahead," was intense to say the least. The tension of the situations is even more gripping than the more graphic attack scenes, which may or may not have included a zombie disembowelment.

The idea of the group splitting up was touched on throughout the episode, showing that even when the world is over and humans are at the bottom of the food chain, you probably can't trust even the non-cannibals. Wah wah. Without any real SPOILERS, the episode concluded with two characters in probably-extreme danger. And they're both little kids.

According to a Google search in-depth research, the season is supposed to circle back to some story lines from the original comic. After quite a divergence from the book's plot with the CDC debacle, fans of Kirkman's books (myself included) will undoubtedly be happy to see RUMORED BUT PROBABLY TRUE MINI-SPOILER the Greene family will join the show.

If you're looking for a beautifully hopeless, intense show to get into and another reason to dread Monday mornings, tune in to The Walking Dead on AMC Sundays at 9 p.m.

Enjoy this trailer for the next episode (final warning, SPOILERS), fantastically accompanied by Johnny Cash's cover of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "I See a Darkness":



#OMGARETHOSECHOPPERS?

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List: 10/7-10/9]]>

Hold on to your knickers, girls! This weekend is full of excellent music, arts, theater and shopping events. Here we go:

Ides of March premiers tonight (FINALLY). Check it out and see how many Cincinnati landmarks you can spot. Or just look at Ryan Gosling. Read our interview with an actor who is not Gosling or Clooney here, and check out our review.

Clifton Heights Music Festival is back for its fifth installment! Bands of all genres take over six Clifton-area bars (in walking distance of one another) tonight and Saturday. The ever-growing fest continues to be one of the most affordable - $8 gets you in all venues for one night, $12 for both nights. Go here for the full lineup and venue details.

Rapper Machine Gun Kelly plays Madison Theater tonight. My little sister wants to marry him. Important facts here.---

Think you're too old for haunted hay rides? Quit being a little bitch and check out the Springboro Haunted Hayride and Black Bog. Cozy up to your companion as you roll in a tractor through a haunted forest, filled with creepy creatures. "More terror!" you say? Stick around for the night walk through Springboro's forest of Black Bog. It's pretty damn frightening. Both attractions open Friday-Saturday through Oct. 29. Get directions here.

Northside Second Saturdays kicked off last month, bringing all the restaurants, bars, retail shops and galleries in one of Cincinnati's hippest 'hoods all together for one night. Happy hour/shopping specials at participating locations along Hamilton, Chase and Spring Grove Avenues begin at 6 p.m. Go here for all the details.

Folk Metal Vikings Winterhymn play Covington's Radiodown Saturday. Members have really cool names.  Details here.

This week marks the final Second Sunday on Main of the season. Come down to OTR for SSOM's foodie fest. There will be celebrity chef demos, dining specials at local eateries, a chili cook-off and more. Go here for more info.

Beauty and the Beast continues at the Aronoff Center nightly through Sunday. Sometimes date-night shows can double as shows for kids. Proceed with caution.

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<![CDATA[R.I.P. "Winning": The Roast of Charlie Sheen]]>

They say you only roast the ones you love, but what can be said about someone with few redeemable qualities, who's essentially spent the past year roasting himself in the media? Quite a bit, apparently.---

Last night's Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen could have been predictable and stale, but both the roasters and roastee brought the laughs - and plenty of surprises.---

Hosted by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, roasters included Mike Tyson (legitimately shitfaced), Steve-o (strangely sober), "Roastmaster" Jeffrey Ross (donning a bright Gaddafi uniform), William Shatner (who, I don't care how much surgery he may have gotten, looks damn good) and Grey's Anatomy's Kate Walsh.

One of my favorite parts of these roasts is the bashing of the fellow panelists. John "JLo" Lovitz was introduced as the star of "Two and a Half Chins," and Mike Tyson told Jeffrey Ross that his performance was so bad, "I wish I bit my own ears off," but the punchline of many jokes was comedian Patrice O'Neal. Now, I don't like to take shit like television specials too seriously, but the comments made toward this comedian brought to light the thin line between comedy and "going too far."

Especially in the entertainment arena, we live in a time where people can get away with more and more insensitive comments under the guise of edginess and comedy. Like, "I'm not a racist, so I can make fun of black stereotypes." So when Kate Walsh advised him, "Grape soda doesn't count as fruit," in reference to his very serious diabetes and when comedienne Amy Schumer concluded a round of yo-grandmama jokes with, "I just assumed your grandmother raised you," (in addition to dozens of other very personal jabs at O'Neal) it was just a little unsettling. When it was O'Neal's turn, he was visibly shocked, tossing out his pre-written lines to come back at the other panelists, essentially throwing a big "WTF?!" out there.

It's not to say every roaster wasn't funny. They really were. When else are you going to hear Shatner yell, "Who's the warlock now, bitch?!" But shit continued to get real when Sheen himself took the mic at the end of the evening. He didn't have a lot of jabs to throw at his roasters; in fact, he was quite somber, for Charlie Sheen.

"You couldn't hurt me," he told the panel, "Hell, I couldn't hurt me."

He continued to explain that crazy Sheen was so last winter and we can expect a little less tiger blood from now on.

"I'm done with the 'winning,'" he said," because I've already won."

It was at that moment it became clear that by having these other washed-up assholes berate each other, it kind of made Sheen look less psychotic. He totally spun the whole thing!

Now, can Sheen pull a Robert Downey, Jr.? Who knows. But judging by the number of people who watched the roast, still use his now famous catch-phrases and followed his crazy train all the way to this point, America clearly hasn't turned its back on Sheen just yet.

Go here to watch for yourself.

Oh, and if you give two and a half shits, Ashton Kutcher made his debut on Sheen's old gig last night, which drew almost 28 million viewers. Great job, America!

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<![CDATA[The Emmys Recap]]>

Last night was the Modern Family 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which is basically an orgy of television shows from Glee to Deadliest Catch to The Daily Show.---

Jane Lynch spread her Sturdy Wings and soared as the hilarious hostess of the evening. The skits throughout the show were pretty funny for a stodgy TV awards show. Pre-recorded video segments depicted a world where all television show characters lived together in one building:


And worked at Dunder-Mifflin:


Breaking Bad's Jesse bringing a bag of meth to The Office's kooky Creed - I'm a sucker for that shit.

And then there was a Lonely Island performance of epic proportions, featuring Michael Bolton as Captain Jack Sparrow, John Stamos and Ed Helms as those dick-in-a-box dudes and Akon singing the best song to have in your head at work:



And then some people won some awards.

If you missed our live chat of The Emmys, I don't know if we can be friends anymore, but here's some fun that you missed out on:

Celebrity Panelists!

Several big names in Hollywood popped in our chat, including Carl Winslow, Robert Downey, Sr. and even Jane Lynch herself! At our next live chat we will award the commenter with the most creative user name.

Interactive Polls!

It's way more fun to vote for celebrities and TV shows than politicians. And CityBeat believes it's important for your voice to be heard.

Heated Debates!

Commenter Kate enlightened me about the positive qualities of Sofia Vergara, an actress with whom I've been in a feud (in my head) for over a year. I still think the tranny is faking that accent, but I will probably watch at least one episode of Modern Family now, after the show nabbed five awards.

Go here to relive the evening. Live chats are the future.

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<![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).---

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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.

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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.

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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.

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                                                                           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:

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                                                                                             Oh, that omelet looks goo-

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                                                                                    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."

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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.

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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."

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                                                                  Testify!

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.

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           "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.

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                                                                         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!

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<![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. 

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                                                             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.

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"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. 

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                                                  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."

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                                                                                    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:

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

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<![CDATA[My Romantic Evening at White Castle]]>

White Castle is the oldest fast-food burger joint in the country, serving up savory, moist cardboard-like mini sandwiches for 90 years. That's right, back when people enjoyed a night of Prohibition-grade bathtub gin, they could wash it down with some sliders. ---

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A sack of chicken rings would sooo hit the spot right now!

In line with tradition, Whitie's has celebrated Valentine's Day every year in a very special way for almost 20 years. Every Feb. 14, White Castles across the country class it up with reserved seating, special decor and even table service.

Most people can appreciate the humor behind taking someone you remotely like to a place where "sack" is a serving size, but who would actually eat inside a White Castle ever, let alone on Valentine's Day?

My boyfriend Jeff and I rolled up to the Newport Whitie's at 7 p.m. Monday, ready to get our crave case on. When he made the reservations, the woman assured him we were "in for a real treat," and that we could expect table cloths, candles, flowers in a take-home vase and even a special digital photo on WhiteCastle.com to remember the night by! Boy, were we pumped.

When we arrived, half of the restaurant was decorated and designated with "Reserved" signs, while the other half remained open for non-festive diners (namely, a few harmless junkies and a vocal group of teens who entered with a polite, "We gotta RSVP for this shit?").

All of the Valentine's diners shared that same "We're totally in on it" smile with us as we sat down. There didn't seem to be any guests taking it seriously — a few couples and two families with little kids who were having a lot of fun. My favorite had to be a group of two older, sophisticated couples who talked about traveling, golf and charity work between bites of sliders. They requested hilarious items like lemon juice for their fish sandwiches.

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"You just have to see this adorable photo of the Guatemalan village Tom and I adopted..."

The manager and two servers did a super job but were incredibly nervous the entire time. I thought this was odd since I've seen White Castle employees break up fights and run homeless people off their parking lots — how hard could it be to serve some friendly old people and a few stoned couples? Perhaps I set my expectations too high, but I felt our location was lacking in the atmosphere department. After carefully comparing my experience to a friend's photos from the Northside WC (yes, multiple people I know celebrated this special day at a fast-food restaurant, NBD), I confirmed that I was right. In lieu of table cloths, we had red paper place mats. Our table was the only one with a flower on it and since they ran out of "collapsable vases," each lady in the house was given a red carnation in holiday wrapping paper.

But before you start thinking I'm just a bougie bitch, I will say there were plenty of cute hanging decorations and romantic floating candles on every table. And, damn it, it was the best White Castle meal I have ever eaten. Everything was hot, tasted like something recognizable and came out quickly. The best part (or worst, depending on how you look at it) was that I wasn't in a typical WC haze of alcohol that would cause me wake up surrounded by several mysteriously empty boxes with no recollection of what was eaten. ...Hypothetically speaking, of course. After sampling nearly every WC varietal, we were treated with a complementary dessert. Ice cream sandwiches!

Sufficiently stuffed, we settled out with our waiter (why are tiny burgers more expensive that double stacks?) and headed out. All in all, it was a fun night. If you're already planning for next year, I suggest going in a small group (to share the fun), earlier in the night (before they run out of goodies. I want my Goddamn WC vase.) and ordering the ranch chicken rings. They were succulent. And for those wondering if the absence of alcohol at all changes a body's reaction to White Castle food, I will just say this: slider hangover is a real thing.

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Nothing says love like his 'n' hers diarrhea!

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<![CDATA[Showtime's Winter Offerings Worth Watching]]>

'Tis the season of waiting for premium cable lovers.  Most of the truly addictive programs shown on HBO and Showtime (and on many basic cable channels, for that matter) wrapped up in late fall and now all the Dexperts, Trubies and Maddicts are starting to get the shakes because it'll be swimsuit weather before their favorite shows return and it seems like Two and a Half Men is taking over the tube.---

Well, worry not, humans-who-aren't-too-cool-to-admit-they-own-a-television, because Showtime's offering a winter crop of decent shows on Sunday night to tide you over.

Last night, a new season of Californication and two series premiers aired on Showtime. The first of the new offerings, Episodes, stars Matt LeBlanc and follows two married writers who move to Los Angeles to remake their successful British TV series.  I missed this one (possibly due to the "Joey" jokes made in the commercials), but I've heard one person dub it "the cable version of 30 Rock." That's rather blasphemous, but it shows that Episodes might be an alright series.

Ironically, Shameless, the other new series that premiered, actually is based off an award-winning British show of the same name, which is still on the air. I haven't seen the original series, but American re-makes of high-quality imports usually suckNot always, but usually. I gave it a shot anyway.

The show takes place in Chicago and centers around the Gallagher family. William H. Macy plays an alcoholic POS dad with like 50 meddlin' kids who have to fend for themselves. OK, not really, but that's all I knew about the show going into it.  

The pilot opens with a cliched hobo scene: a bunch of bundled up dudes huddled around a trash can fire drinking from paper bag-wrapped 40s. Frank (Macy) narrates and describes each of his kids from oldest to youngest: Fiona (Emmy Rossum), "the rock" is the matriarch (no word on who/where Mama G. is); Philip "Lip" is a crazy smart high schooler, but is also a crazy smart ass who gets into trouble; Ian is straight-laced, military-bound teen and a closeted homosexual; little Debbie steals money she raises for Unicef to help pay the family's bills; Carl is a little squirt (don't know much about him yet); and since no quirky modern family would be complete without a little black child, Liam is the adorable baby brother most certainly from another mother.

The first couple minutes of the show struck me as a bit wishy-washy, but Frank's happy little thought bubble pops when the episode truly begins. I was expecting the show to focus on Frank, who is obviously the hottest mess in the food stamp line.  It isn't, though, and I believe that's for the benefit of the show. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE me some Dub H. Mace. But centering on the kids and their reactions to their dad, instead of Frank himself makes for a much smarter, darker dramedy.  You don't see much of Frank getting sloshed with his buddies; you do see Fiona help a cop carry her passed out, piss-stained dad inside the house.

The children who play the Gallagher kids are really talented. Each has a very specific character to play, and they all do so without falling into a stereotype.   For example, initially I felt Fiona was kind of way too hot for the projects.  It's like in She's All That when we're supposed to believe that Rachael Leigh Cook is ugly when she wears glasses and has paint on her shirt, but once that pony tail is down, she's a total babe. 

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MY EYES! MY EYES! That's sick!                                                 Oh, hey, she's hot.

Obviously, Emmy Rossum is not a little hoodrat - am I really supposed to believe that once she swaps her unflattering work garb for under-eye concealer and a little Forever 21 dress (which she keeps tagged so she can return), rude douchebags will stop making fun of her and a good looking, well-off dude will notice her?  Well, yes, that's kind of what happens, but it's believable.  As soon as you see a glimmer of triteness in Shameless, the storyline and cast's acting chops take the show in a really interesting direction. 

Is it going to be a long winter?  Yes.  But Showtime will keep you company as you count down the days 'til The Walking Dead returns. (Only 9 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes!)

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<![CDATA[Bobby Goes to Bonnaroo: Part Three]]>

Editor's Note: We here at the CityBeat editorial staff figured it would be an alright idea to allow one of our summer interns, Bobby Goodwin, to leave his post for a couple days and go out on assignment to fulfill his life's dream of attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival, provided he write a highly detailed chronicle of his misadventures in a series of four blogs. So we wished him godspeed, and off he went. Bobby really lets it go off the rails in this, the third installment of what transpired. ---(To begin at the beginning and read part one, click here. For part two, click here.)

Friday

Waking up at 11 a.m. inside a hot Corolla isn’t the best way to start your day. As I stumbled out of Melfi’s car and walked around to the trunk, I slipped on an empty garbage bag left over from the night before and fell right on my ass. In front of everyone. I could tell Friday was going to be a ridiculous day.

At noon I attempted to email my boss lady, Maija, at CityBeat. My phone battery was dangerously low, my 3G connection was even worse and at this point I gave up trying to use the Internet for the rest of the weekend. Lots of people who’ve lost their phone or gone without one for a while have told me how relieved they felt or how it freed them from the stress of texting and calling.

I didn’t feel like that at all.

In fact, I had to will myself into having a good time due to my cell phone being dead. Guess that’s just the dorky mobile journalist in me speaking.

After only one day of festivaling, the port-a-potties sucked. They were so gross. Not just an “Eww, gross, people poop in here and walk away” type of gross, but an “Eww, gross, there’s poop on the floor with a footprint in it” or an “Eww, there’s no toilet paper left in this one” or an “Eww, why are there empty beer cans and old tampon wrappers in the urinal part?” type of gross.

Rather than focusing on feces, I directed my mind elsewhere: to food. Sitting in our lawn chairs around the camp, I was informed about the one-dollar grilled cheese stand on Shakedown Street.

Now, before I get to the food, Shakedown Street is what the group of guys I went with called the road you take to get into Centeroo and walk to all the other camp sites. The food is cheaper, there are thousands of bowls and incense sticks for sale and there are lots of drugs. You can’t walk down the street without people whispering in your ear “’Shrooms,” “Mollies,” “doses,” etc. Pretty awesome and hilarious at first, but by the end of the festival it’s kind of too much. Too much drugs.

Back to grilled cheese. Although I didn’t end up trying one until Sunday morning, it didn’t take me long to realize it was the best thing going at the festival. Besides the awesome price, they throw some garlic butter on the bread. Surprisingly, the cheese isn’t good old American either. I forget which kind it was exactly but I’m super picky with cheese so whatever kind it is they use, it’s real good. Maybe Havarti.

Also, “special” grilled cheese and “special” brownies and other assorted baked goods came up as a topic of conversation. If you’re looking for stuff cooked with weed butter, Bonnaroo is the place to find it. Just don’t look for it at the stands. Check out the personal tents instead, where random campers sell sketchy things.

So around noon we decided we should probably head back to Centeroo to check out the bands.

Bowls were packed.

I learned that it’s a good idea (and considered fashionable) to rock board shorts all day, everyday, at Bonnaroo. Luckily, I had packed my highlighter-pink, -orange and -yellow Billabong board shorties, so I threw those on and put my pack of Silvers in my back pocket, the only pocket I had. Most of the guys went shirtless. Me too. It was so hot outside.

With nobody in particular that I was looking forward to seeing, I tagged along with the group to see the end of Toubab Krewe’s set, a band I had never heard of before. They were super cool and pretty entertaining. They play instrumental stuff that sounds like a mix of American and African. I’m pretty sure for their last song they were all playing some form of percussion instrument.

Also, Cody had smuggled several Bud Heavies into Centeroo (he waited until the security guards let everyone through without checking bags), which we were forced to consume rather quickly after a security guy approached us. He was actually really nice about it and instead of confiscating the beers or making us pour them out, he just told us to finish all of them right in front of him. So I guess that technically their security guards encourage drinking.

We asked him why they enforce the no-smuggling-beers-in rule, and he told us that it’s mainly because of pressure from festival sponsors. The guys I went with told me that after MTV took over Bonnaroo and got a bunch of big corporations in, the whole vibe changed just a little—for the worse. Even though we were drinking Anheuser-Busch products, that wasn’t good enough. We were supposed to buy $6 drafts instead.

Obviously, we said, “Fuck that,” and luckily for us, the security guard didn’t really give a shit and didn’t notice the few beers Cody still had hidden, wrapped in his jacket at the bottom of his backpack.

Then we walked over to another stage.

Animal Collective was playing at 2:45 p.m. at the Which Stage and I wanted to see them really bad, hoping they’d play a bunch of stuff off their newest record, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Before they came on, we sat up against the wooden boards off to the side and sat down (where people had probably peed the night before, we soon realized). Gomez was finishing their set.

Somebody packed a bowl.

So did somebody else.

Before Animal Collective came on, I got antsy. Matt, who had gotten a press pass for a previous Bonnaroo, knew where the media tent was: conveniently located right next to the Which Stage, where we were.

So I checked it out.

Not knowing at all what to expect and entering the media tent by myself, I was overwhelmed by the oasis of (outdoor) air conditioning and electrical outlets. Still had to pay big bucks for food and drinks though. There were a couple press conferences going on, but with nothing on me except board shorts and a pack of Silvers, I looked rather out of place, and definitely not like a journalist. But then again, nobody looked that journalistic.

After standing around feeling awkward for circa five minutes, I wanted a cig but I didn’t have a lighter, so I asked the guy next to me if he had one. He did. It was one of those sweet, cheap, clear plastic ones that come with a bottle opener on the side too. I told him I liked it. He told me his name. It was Justin, a guitarist from Toubab Krewe.

I was like “Oh yeah, I just saw you guys play.”

So that made me dumb, thinking this guy was another journalism nerd and he turns out to be a musician I just watched perform, but he was really nice and we shook hands and parted ways, cancer sticks in mouths. It was getting close to 2:45 p.m. and I was paranoid that I wouldn’t be able to find my group since my phone was dead and not on me, so I left the press tent after only 15 minutes.

Thank goddess I ran into Matt and Ellen when I walked back outside to the main area.

I made a mental note to definitely go back to the press tent A.S.A.P. to re-juice my phone and see what it was really all about. But that was Saturday.

My friend Jordan from Dayton later told me from home that Animal Collective had some sound problems with their set. Maybe that’s why I got bored so fast. They even played their trendy, new, accessible songs that I wanted to hear, like “My Girls,” “Lion in a Coma” (which I think they opened with), “Bluish” and other good tracks. But the group wasn’t really feeling it, and it didn’t seem like a lot of other people were either (except for this kid who looked like he was tripping really hard), so we walked out of the middle of the crowd to go see somebody else.

That’s when we discovered Galactic. I personally had never heard of them and knew nothing about them. They’re this Funk/Jazz band from New Orleans, and they had this killer tenor sax player up there who goes by Boe Money. He had an approximately 15-minute solo where he ended up in the middle of the crowd. Boe Money was so ridiculous that the trumpet player who had come out with him just stood up on the stage not even knowing what to do. It was such a long solo that it kind of got awkward. Good, though.

This was during the heat of the day so Ford and I walked to go get fresh-squeezed lemonades for four bucks. When we got back, Tony and Kate had found the rest of the group.

A dragon bowl was packed.

At this point I had already run out of cigs so I bought a pack of stupid 99’s off Chris, who had them in his backpack. Six bucks a pack is an awful lot to charge a friend for a fucked-up pack of cigarettes, I thought.

After Galactic’s pretty lengthy set, we started walking back. Some people bought gyros. Finally back at the campsite, the guys put shirts on for the first time that day. It was around 5 p.m. Also around the time my phone finally died.

Before putting on a shirt, I took a “shower” at the public sinks, which are used for tooth brushing, hair washing, feet rinsing and other cleansing activities. Gross, right? I was the first person in the group to attempt to get clean, which made me feel extra newbie-like, but cleanliness is next to godliness to me.

Around 7:30 p.m., our neighbor from Pittsburgh came over and offered free hits of acid to anyone who wanted them. There were stipulations though. 1) You had to put it in your mouth in front of him (I know, that’s what she said), and 2) You had to tell him you had tripped before.

Several of our group members took him up on his offer.

With the Beastie Boys set to play at 8:30 p.m.—right before Phish—everyone took his or her drug of choice (someone had found and purchased a bunch of Mollies — which are capsules of MDMA in pure form), and we went back to Centeroo. We were pretty much in the dead center of the crowd when the Beastie Boys came on. Sweetness.

Their light show was AMAZING. Of all the bands I saw there, they had the most visuals coming off their giant projector screens. As for the show, it was pretty good. High energy, good sound. They’re just three old guys in a band that I never really got into back when they were big.

Come to think of it, I’m not that into Phish either. But they were on next, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. I was excited to see them for the first time, though.

I can’t emphasize what a great location we were in. Center of the main stage for Phish’s Friday night show was unbelievable. Everyone around us was so messed up and so into it. Except for Riley, who was so messed up that he just wanted to see Crystal Castles at 12:15 a.m. I mean, so did I, but I wasn’t announcing what time they came on and what tent they were playing at in the middle of a Phish show. If it were a less stoner-friendly show, he might have gotten his ass kicked. It was really funny though. He was actually wearing a Crystal Castles shirt at the time, and he told me he’d had it on for three or four days without taking it off or something amazing like that.

Phish fans fucking love glow sticks. When they took the stage, the sky lit up with rainbows of glow sticks showering upon us. Later on Sunday when we saw them again, I’d get hit in the head by a couple, which really hurt. Ellen had two boxes of glow sticks, so she gave me a couple that were the bendy kinds with connectors to make into bracelets. It was awesome. I guess I fucking love glow sticks too.

For as much as I wanted to see Crystal Castles and Girl Talk, I kind of felt bad leaving in the middle of the Phish show. It was a pain in the ass to maneuver through thousands of people tripping balls, laying on dirty blankets in the grass in the dark.

It took a while to get to That Tent where Crystal Castles were playing, but it was a very fun walk. Crystal Castles were kind of disappointing, though. I don’t think drummer Ethan Kath even came out, and it was really hard to see singer Alice Glass from where we were standing. I wasn’t in the right state of mind for their speed-freak set list either. I also heard that Alice was acting extremely cracked-out, but who knows? We weren’t incredibly close.

Then Girl Talk came out at the same tent at 2:15 in the morning. So absurd. I’d already seen him a couple times before, so I wasn’t expecting anything new or crazy, but I was wrong. First, Matt and I decided to get ourselves in the right state of mind for the show (like everyone else in the group already had), and then people starting getting smashed up against the stage. Gregg actually had to stop playing for five minutes or so and make an announcement because people were getting so squished up front.

About 10 minutes later I thought I was gonna pass out or maybe die again, and Riley ran out of the crowd with me with his CamelBak on, and we got more water for everyone. All we wanted was water. So much water. After that, I felt awesome. Lots of people at Bonnaroo walked around with CamelBaks, which I had never really seen before. Great for outdoor sports and outdoor concerts.

Then the usual crazy Americana trash visuals started showing up behind Girl Talk (sneakers, burgers, stuff like that), and then inflatable rafts started going out in the crowd. And of course there were a ton of people on stage with him. One of them must’ve unplugged his cords by accident because he had to quit playing again for a second after the sound got messed up, but overall it was a great show. Lots of drunk d-bags there, though. Girl Talk’s popularity has spread a bit too far into the college “Chug! Chug! Chug!” party scene.

I don’t remember if Girl Talk played for longer than he was set for but it was about 4 a.m. when he was done. We weren’t, though. While some of our group went back, Tony, Matt, Kate, Cody, me and maybe somebody else stayed in Centeroo until daylight broke, dancing our asses off to Paul Oakenfold, the world-famous Trance DJ. He was supposed to be done at four but he ended up playing until 6 a.m. The people who were still there were the most fucked-up people I’ve ever been around. This one gross fat girl had a pacifier necklace and was basically having sex standing up with this Dungeons-and-Dragons-looking guy. Puke.

Then there was maybe the funniest story of all. The same guy had another girl with him, who some of the guys I was with recognized as some hardcore Christian girl who goes to Xavier. She used to be roommates with one of their friends. So weird. She wasn’t acting like a Jesus freak at Bonnaroo, though. She was also having creepo dry sex with that guy, and at one point she literally started spazzing out like she was having a drug-induced seizure. Then the D&D guy went up behind her and started cracking her back and giving her fucked-up pressure points on her neck and spine, which seemed to have made her orgasm. Meanwhile, she had the facial expression of a rabid, crazy woman. It was really disturbing.

But Paul Oakenfold might have been the best show I saw there. I had never listened to his crazy-ass music before, and I may never again, but that night I danced harder than I ever have.

Then maybe the second funniest story from the weekend happened. Towards the end of Paul’s set, this dude around our age with a little Track backpack on comes up to me, looks me right in the eyes as seriously as possible and asks, “Hey, do you know where I can find any scene pussy?”

At first I didn’t even understand the kid, we were so fucked up, but when I did I couldn’t stop laughing. I told him, sorry man, but that I came here with a bunch of dudes. Then he asked if I was gay. Then I stopped laughing. Then he went up to Kate (trying to hook up with her) and proceeded to tell her that he hadn’t slept at all so far at Bonnaroo, that he just bought a whole roll of Mollies and that he wasn’t going to sleep the whole weekend.

When I read the Pitchfork article the week after about the person who died at Bonnaroo, I thought it might be that guy. For reals.

I think it goes without saying, but pretty much everyone dancing to Paul Oakenfold at 6 in the morning under a muddy tent was on Ecstasy. “Spoonfuls out of the brain.” Hmm.

So, Paul finally stopped playing (to our extreme dismay), and, exhausted, we walked back to camp very slowly and very much like vegetables. Coming down was really hard on everybody I was with, and when we got back to the site we just sat and smoked hookahs and bowls for an hour, just dead to the world. I tried eating some Baked Lays but my mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow anything. Pathetically, I passed out in the tent around 8 a.m. Good night/good morning.

After about 30 minutes it got so damn hot the sun woke me up again. I had to lay down in random shady areas in-between our parked cars for the next few hours to get any sleep.

Whew. We're really hoping Bobby survived and will be submitting a fourth and final conclusion to his detailed accounts of Bonnaroo's rampant Bacchanalia. Check back for more.

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<![CDATA[Bobby Goes to Bonnaroo: Part Two]]>

Editor's Note: We here at the CityBeat editorial staff figured it would be an alright idea to allow one of our summer interns, Bobby Goodwin, to leave his post for a couple days and go out on assignment to fulfill his life's dream of attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival, provided he write a highly detailed chronicle of his misadventures in a series of four blogs. Here's part two of what transpired. --- (To read part one, click here.)

Thursday

I woke up Thursday around 11 a.m. on a mattress in Matt’s living room. Immediately, there was bad news. Riley decided to switch his flight from Louisville to Nashville and to pay something like $80 to take a shuttle from the Nashville airport to Bonnaroo. Essentially, this meant we could’ve left whenever. So I called my contact for Hockey, who was all like, “Don’t stress, dude … Bonnaroo is all about good vibes” … and other assorted bullshit statements to calm down the psycho journalist within me. He also told me to just call him when I got there and we could set something up for Friday or Saturday, since Hockey was planning on hanging out after they played their Thursday night set.

I don’t remember exactly how long it took to get from Matt’s place to Nashville, but around 3:30 p.m., we met the final member of our Bonnaroo group in a K-Mart parking lot, who went by Ford and liked beer and Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of beer, we stopped at Kroger after picking up Ford (he’s from Nashville) and bought an ungodly amount of alcohol, especially for the middle of the day on a random Thursday. I sorta felt bad. That’s when I got my case of Natty.

Bonnaroo-goers also have to take into account the time it takes to wait in line to get into the campgrounds. P.S.: There are cops everywhere when you’re on your way in. This was at about 6 p.m. Melfi’s stereo was blasting Moe.

After only half an hour -- the guys who had been before were freaking out about how little time it took to get a camping spot -- we set up camp. This involved me watching Chris and Melfi attempt to put together the tent. There would be tent-related problems later in the night. Among the four cars we all took down there, we had six tents to share. So sleeping in a tent didn’t sound all that bad at the time.

The Bonnaroo veterans accompanying me were also super pumped about our port-a-potty and shower/sink situation -- we were a stone’s throw from both. Score.

Then the drinking commenced. Actually, Cody had cracked open a Bud Heavy the second we parked our cars. At 8:15 p.m., half the group, myself included, walked over to see Hockey play. I was excited to catch their show so that I could get a clue of what they sounded like live before I met them.

Centeroo is where everything happens. It’s where you enter to go see all the bands at all the stages and buy overpriced carnival food from sketchy rednecks. The “Who’s On First?”-style stage names are simple. And dumb. This Stage, That Stage, Which Stage: these are all real names of stages there. Kinda cool that they’re not named after some corporate sponsor, but still, it gets confusing. Especially after dark and while on drugs.

As far as I could tell, there were two entrances to Centeroo. The first one, about a five-minute walk from our tent, always had a long line. The second entrance, a little further down the dirt and gravel path, had a much shorter line, so we went there instead. It definitely pays to go with people who have been to Bonnaroo before. It also pays to have a press pass, which allowed Kate and me to enter Centeroo through the exit of either entrance without being frisked and physically violated like our other friends. We ended up having to wait 10 minutes on several occasions for the rest of the group to get through the lines. Every once in a while, though, when the queue got too chaotic, the volunteer workers said fuck it and yelled for everyone to just run through, especially if you “had stuff” in your bags.

Hockey was awesome, even though we only got to see them play a few songs. I liked how the singer rocked hippie-style headbands too.

At about 9:15 p.m., I bought a five-dollar slice of greasy pizza and ate it on our way back to camp to get more messed up before Passion Pit played.

Then it started monsooning. Luckily, Chris had bought enough ponchos for Melfi and me at Wal Mart and gave us each one on the walk back. At 10:20 we left to go see Passion Pit. I was really excited to see them too, since my friend introduced me to them this past spring and I got to interview their keyboard guy.

I must’ve been too drunk to remember to enter through the exit, but this hardass guy wouldn’t let me back in with the butterfly fries I had just bought. Butterfly fries are potatoes sliced super-thin into one long spiral -- and probably not worth however much they cost. So Chris and Melfi leaned over the fence and helped me finish them off.

At 10:30 p.m., we made it to the same stage we were at to see Hockey and started waiting for Passion Pit. About 20 minutes later, instead of seeing normal, I could suddenly see only pink and purple. And then black. I don’t know what did it to me. I could’ve been dehydrated. All I know is that I got dizzy and lightheaded and I couldn’t see anything. I blacked out for 10 minutes, and Tony had to guide me through the mud puddles to sit on the grass. He told me people were getting mildly upset at the mud I was flinging on them accidentally. I almost fell about nine times. It was bad. I lost both my flip-flops in the mud. Tony had to hold on to me so I didn’t fall while retrieving my buried flippy-floppies from the muck. After I sat down, some stranger standing next to Tony took one look at me and gave me his bottle of water and said, “Drink this. Now.”

After about 10 minutes my shit went back to normal and I slowly got up and walked sheepishly back to where our friends were waiting for Passion Pit to take the stage.

They opened with “Better Things” off their EP and also played “The Reeling,” “Sleepyhead,” “Moth’s Wings,” “Smile Upon Me” and a couple others. Overall, it was a great show. However, toward the end, I could tell the singer’s voice was degrading a little with each chorus. That was a little disappointing. Still, they were really good, and they looked confident up there. My friends were all surprised at how many people showed up for their set. I guess Passion Pit’s blowing up.

After they played, there wasn’t much left going on that night, so I walked back to camp at 12:30 a.m. after I rinsed off my gross flip-flops underneath the mushroom fountain in the middle of Centeroo. Now the rain was really coming down. It was unpleasant. It got really windy too, enough to blow the tarp off our tent. With Chris gone and Melfi huddled in Cody’s cozy car without my knowledge, I curled up in the fetal position in our tent and tried to put all our sleeping bags in the driest corner.

It didn’t work.

By the time I discovered Melfi was in a nice, warm car directly across from me and by the time Chris got back to camp, our tent was fucked. It felt like it rained a couple inches over those couple hours. I was hoping the rest of Bonnaroo wouldn’t be as wet. This was getting gross. After surveying the damage, Melfi determined that my sleeping bag was wet beyond repair, so I passed out in the front seat of his car at two in the morning, wet as could be in my muddy jean shorts.

Check back soon for part three.

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<![CDATA[Bobby Goes to Bonnaroo: Part One]]>

Editor's Note: We here at the CityBeat editorial staff figured it would be an alright idea to allow one of our summer interns, Bobby Goodwin, to leave his post for a couple days and go out on assignment to fulfill his life's dream of attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival, provided he write a highly detailed chronicle of his misadventures in a series of four blogs. Here's part one of what transpired. ---

I’ve wanted to go to Bonnaroo since I was 17. Back then, I was a senior in high school with no money and no parental permission to attend the weekend-long music/drug fest. Four years later, I still have no money, but I made a point to attend Bonnaroo 2009 one way or another.

That’s when my friend Tony from Xavier told me about his ingenious idea. His girlfriend Kate writes for Xavier’s newspaper. She used her journalism skills to score her a free press pass (i.e. ticket) to Bonnaroo. All you have to do is apply on their Web site. So I spent the second week of May applying for a press pass through my journalism positions at Miami. Less than a week later, I got the best email I’ve ever received (unless you count the spam that made it through Gmail’s filter telling me someone in the U.K. owes me 500,000 pounds).

Anyway, the email told me 1) that I was approved for a press pass, and 2) I could pick up my pass at the will-call stand in Manchester, Tennessee the first day of the festival (Thursday).

But the work wasn’t over. It was just beginning. Turns out having fun takes effort. Lots. Step one was to go over the schedule of artists performing there who I wanted to see and make some choices -- tough decisions like whether or not I should stay for the second half of Phish’s Friday night set at the main stage or go catch Crystal Castles AND Girl Talk instead. (I went with the latter option, obviously)

Not to mention the acts that I’d have to miss out on, like not being able to see Phoenix, who drew the short straw by being scheduled to play during the first half of Phish’s Friday night set. If it were up to me, I would’ve gone to see the French pop stars, but when you go with a group of 18 people, you go with the flow.

Step two was to tackle the world of emails flooding my inbox sent from Bonnaroo bands’ PR people begging for free press. This wasn’t all bad, though. I got to check out a few bands I might not have heard of otherwise, like Hockey, an up and coming group from Portland. I contacted their dude at EMI and set up an interview for Thursday afternoon. I freaked out when I got an email from Of Montreal’s representative, but I didn’t think I’d have time to be running all over the place doing interviews. I also didn’t think a band that I idolize like Of Montreal would be that interested in talking to some 22-year old kid.

Next was the lengthy task known as packing. Naturally, I waited until the day before to do so. And so began my five-day-long Bonnaroo adventure …


Wednesday

It actually didn’t hit me until my friend Melfi came and picked me up from my house and I put my bags in his car that I was really going. Surprisingly, going to and getting through the long workday on Wednesday wasn’t that difficult. It wasn’t like Christmas Eve, when my mind wanders, and I still feel the urge to stay up all night and occasionally peek over the banister at the presents under the tree. It was way more surreal. Like, HOLY CRAP, am I really leaving for Bonnaroo tonight?

So Tony, the unofficial leader of our Bonnaroo group, at least as far as I was concerned, decided it would make the most sense to drive down to his friend Matt’s house -- who was also going -- in Louisville on Wednesday night so we could get an early start on Thursday.

After I got off work in Dayton, I drove back to my apartment in Oxford to finally start packing. Flip-flops. Check. V-necks. Check. Jean shorts. Check. Athletic shorts. Check. Headbands. Check. Beanies. Check. Undies. Check. Socks. Check. One pair of shitty sneakers. Check. Actually, this is where I went wrong and what I would change if I ever return to Bonnaroo. This past weekend I converted from a Wellies hater to a Wellies supporter. I’m for ‘em. And guys can rock 'em too. But back to packing. Towel, flashlight, batteries my mom gave me, a couple hoodies, a rain jacket, my pillow, sunscreen, aloe ... yadda, yadda, yadda. I might have overpacked a little, but better safe than sorry.

In my haze of regret about not owning Wellies, I also forgot to bring a fold-out soccer mom chair. BIG MISTAKE.

For food, I brought some pretzels, Cracker Jack, M&M’s, bottled water (don’t judge me), and other assorted munchies. Yum.

For alcohol, I also overpacked, Turns out a fifth of Jim Beam (plastic bottles only as per Bonnaroo rules), and a case of Natty is more than I want to drink at a weekend music festival. Let’s not talk about the other experimenting that may or may not have gone on in place of alcohol.

Finally done packing, I drove home at 8 p.m. to eat my last home-cooked meal for a while and to grab more to-go food and a sleeping bag. While I waited for my ride, I checked out Hockey’s MySpace page and some stories written on them.

Around 9:45 p.m., Melfi picked me up and we went to go grab Chris, the third and final passenger in the Corolla (we had to fit in a tent and a cooler too). At about 9:52 I realize I’m a dumbass and I forgot my sleeping bag, so my sister drove it over to Chris’s house real quick. Just when I thought we were on our way, Melfi and Chris decided they wanted Sonic. I know, random, right? While I sat in the parking lot watching them shovel popcorn chicken with honey mustard into their mouths, Tony called. He’d been waiting for us to meet him at Xavier before he left to go to CVG to pick up Kate, who lives in Long Island. We decided it would be best if he just left to go get her without us, and we’d meet him there.

We ended up meeting them at a Steak N’ Shake in Kentucky. This fast food trend was only just beginning. There, I met Kate’s friends Pat, her cousin Alex and her boyfriend Aaron. Then we left for Matt’s, listening to Phish’s live album from Halloween 1998.

Matt and friends had been drinking in his backyard for some time by the time we finally got to his place around one in the morning.

That’s when my plans started dissolving.

Riley, another guy from our Bonnaroo group who runs for Xavier, was stranded overnight at the Dallas airport. His flight to Louisville had been delayed because of a tornado, or something dumb like that. That meant that rather than leave for Manchester circa 5 a.m. we’d have to wait until later in the day on Thursday to caravan to Bonnaroo.

The only thing I could selfishly think about was how this was sabotaging my attempts to interview Hockey.

The other guys that had been drinking at Matt’s and who I would come to know better over the weekend were Cody -- who I went to high school with, Luke and Higgins -- who I had met at a Girl Talk show in Columbus in February, Matt’s sister Ellen and Nick (a.k.a. McLovin). I hesitate to say “motley crew,” but we must’ve looked like a random bunch, between Xavier runners, a couple stoners, a little sister and me.

Around 3 or 4 a.m., we all decided it would probably be a good idea to pass out, so we did.

Stay tuned for part two.

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<![CDATA[Common Listening Party at Mixx Ultra Lounge]]>

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So we gave Mixx Ultra Lounge a kind of shitty review when they first opened but this bar/sushi joint/plush-carpeted elevator ultra lounge offers a night life experience like no other place in this city. I went on Friday (12/19) for the Common listening party and was really surprised at how comfortably crowded and friendly it was in there. There are currently three floors although they plan on opening a fourth and fifth (that's where the "ultra" part comes in). There's a sushi bar, drinks and standing room on the first floor, a wooden bar and DJ area on the second and the third floor is for private VIP use (from what I gathered). The coolest part of the whole place is an old elevator they turned into a lounge area. Check out some photos from the Common listening party below and click here or on the image above to enter a full gallery.

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<![CDATA[Mac's Pizza Pub...]]>

Mac's Pizza Pub is the greatest bar on earth. I seriously can't get enough of it. When it first opened and no one really went there, it was great. Now that there are a ton of college kids in there, it's still great. The drinks are whatever. No better or cheaper than anywhere else, but they do have Strongbow on tap, which is crisp and delicious. And the food is actually not bad. --- They have burgers and appetizers, but, as the name suggests, they have really good pizza. Mac's was actually named number seven in the top ten vegan friendly pizzerias in the country according to VegCookingBlog: "Mac's Pizza Pub is a lively college hangout in Cincinnati. When winding down after an exam (or skipping class!), locals enjoy Mac's vegan pizza, which is topped with fresh veggies and gourmet vegan mozzarella. But veggie students aren't limited to just pizza at Mac's—the pub also offers a Boca burger." You can peruse the menu online. When I was there last night, I noticed a new addition: Fried Pickles. I was a little too afraid to try them, but they come with "bbq ranch" sauce. Nothing can taste bad when slathered with bbq and ranch, especially after it's been breaded and fried.

It's just a normal pizza place with a wide variety of people and It's close to my house so I don't have to drive. There are hipsters who don't feel like going to the Gypsy Hut, frat dudes who don't feel like going to Christie's and people who just want to eat pizza (which they serve by the slice after 10 p.m.). There are also weird murals on the walls with bad puns like the one with the girl in her underwear next to the words, "when you want a piece." Her head is really small and it looks like her ankles are broken. There's also an Italian chef who looks like he's smoking a joint. But the crappy artwork gives a really homey kind of vibe like maybe you're in your little brother's room eating pizza with his stoner friends. They also have karaoke on Tuesdays and Saturdays, live acoustic stuff every third Thursday and djdq from The Animal Crackers/Glue randomly. He's there tonight and then again on Nov. 14.  Something for everyone. It's like their myspace headline says: "Pizza, burgers, beer, and booze."

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