When SKATERS drummer Noah Rubin first met guitarist Josh Hubbard, he didn’t care for the guy. But singer Michael Ian Cummings convinced him that once he got to know him, he would like him. And he was right. Rubin, Cummings and bassist Dan Burke all gelled quickly after they formed the band in 2012 with Hubbard, who's British.
“I was having a conversation with [Josh] and asked him if he wanted to jam,” recalls Rubin, who brings SKATERS to the Grog Shop tonight. “He said, ‘Maybe. I came here to start a fucking rock ’n’ roll band.’ It turned me off because I didn’t know we were starting a band together. I didn’t like him. I thought he was too forward. Mike said, ‘Trust me. This guy’s cool.’ The next day, we booked three shows for the following three weeks. We learned the five songs we knew. We covered five Pixies songs. We sold out all three shows so the band was off and running.”
As the Butcher & the Brewer closes in on its summer opening in the former Dredger's Union space on East Fourth Street, management continues to add key personnel to the team. The latest addition: Executive Chef.
Jim Blevins is leaving his post as executive chef at Hodge's, which he held for just over a year, to join the B&B team. His last official day is Sunday, April 6. Before that position, Blevins was executive chef of Downtown 140 in Hudson and is an alum of Lola.
"I think he's going to be a good fit; he knows his food and is going to be a great team player," says owner Jason Workman, who along with partners Chris Lieb and Jeff Leonard is behind the ambitious project that when complete will boast a restaurant, brewery and retail butcher shop.
Workman says he was attracted to Blevins' maturity, as well as his chops in the kitchen. The 38-year-old chef has been working professionally for roughly 20 years. He lives in Cuyahoga Falls with his wife and two young daughters.
"The biggest thing that excites me is going to work with a team of passionate, caring people that really want to put a lot of love into a product, whether it's beer, the food or the service," Blevins explains. "A group of people that really love what they do."
Blevins has a daunting task awaiting him. At full capacity, the brewpub will seat approximately 185 diners — more when the lower-level speakeasy is complete. What's more, he's joining a culinary strip populated by some heavy hitters, including Michael Symon, Zack Bruell and Jonathon Sawyer.
"It's somewhat intimidating," he admits. "I'm on a block full of Cleveland's best chefs. But I'm not sure I'd call it competition, though. I'm hoping we'll be the place where all those people come after work for a beer — a lot."
The concept alone will set B&B apart from its neighbors, Blevins says. The very informal venue will feature a large number of communal tables from which guests will order from various menu categories and share with their tablemates. Rather than a traditional starter-salad-main-dessert-style menu, B&B will encourage grazing.
"The biggest departure will be how the food is going to come out," says the chef. "We want something interesting to eat on the table at all times."
Menu categories such as Bar Snacks, Cured and Cultured (charcuterie and cheese), Veg, Meat and Fish will be populated by creative, chef-driven items. Of course, many of the items will be coming from the onsite butcher shop.
"I'm thrilled to work with an extremely talented group of butchers, who will be feeding me some really neat products to play with," he says.
Going forward, Blevins says he'll work with management to build a culinary team and craft an appealing, ambitious menu. For now, though, he's just thrilled to have found a group of passionate, like-minded people with whom he can help build an exciting new downtown Cleveland restaurant.
"I was looking for a place I could call home and this just felt good to me," he says.
Detroit-based indie rockers Bad Dates recently drove down from the Motor City to play a Scene Session at our office. The group played a few songs from its new self-titled album.
Check out previous Scene Sessions with the Promise Hero, Zach, Stephanie Trivison, Diana Chittester, One Day's Notice, Taylor Lamborn, Unsaid Fate, Hey Monea!, Joshua Jesty, Hazard Adams, Dan Bankhurst, Joe Moorhead, Erica Blinn, the Ohio City Singers and Kelly Zullo.
A couple of years ago, the local indie rock outfit Cloud Nothings’ manager suggested the group make an album with producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, St. Vincent). That manager no longer works for the band, but the band finally got to work with Congleton. He produced its new album, Here and Nowhere Else, which the band recorded in Hoboken at Water Music over an 8-day period. Last week, we met singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi at his small apartment on Edgewater Dr. to talk about the songs on the new album, a poppier, cheerier effort than 2012’s Attack on Memory. Baldi had just flown in from Los Angeles, where he was writing some material for a side project with Wavves Nathan William, and he was still a bit groggy from the cross-country flight. (He also confided that he’s contemplating a move to Southern California, assuming he can convince his Parisian girlfriend to relocate).
The new album comes out tomorrow and then the group hits the road on Friday and will tour for most of the year (the band plays a CD release show on May 9 at Mahall’s) and will even play in Europe and in Asia. The bushy-haired 22-year-old walked us through the album’s eight tracks and talked about the inspiration for each tune.
The answers to C.A.S.T.'s inquiry, unsurprisingly, flesh out a number of concerns across our city that could be eased by tax revenue generated from, say, a sin tax. Think pothole repair, schools investments, safety force increases, more pothole repair, urban farming, homeless shelter improvements, and so on. And yet more pothole repair.
The matter will be up for a vote in May. The sin tax will come in the form of Issue 7 on the ballot. C.A.S.T.'s main platform point remains a demand for greater transparency in the negotiations between the city and county and the three major sports teams here. As C.A.S.T. supporters Peter Pattakos and Brian Cummins (a Cleveland City Councilman) said during a February debate at Sterle's Country House, a defeat at the polls in May could prompt more open discussion about how to finance the stadium repair obligations in Cleveland.
The sin tax, originally enacted in 1990 and extended for 20 years in 1995, does not expire until 2015.
“Our day at the Market confirms that citizens are fed up with corporate welfare for billionaires in a County that can’t meet the basic needs of its residents,” says C.A.S.T. campaign manager Erin McCardle. “We continue to find that when people take a few moments to consider the facts behind the proposed Sin Tax, they are overwhelmingly opposed to it. We hope they are as enthusiastic about getting to the polls on May 6 to reject Issue 7 for transparency and a better deal with Cleveland’s pro sports owners.”
Our November 2012 feature presents an in-depth look at Cleveland Browns Stadium financing, which is little more than a "liability" for the city, as one councilman told us.
Here's the C.A.S.T. ad: