Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Fix is On… for August 30th in Cleveland Heights

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:28 PM

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Joey’s Bistro closed its doors in April after a little more than two years in business. Come August 30th, the old Jimmy O'Neill's Tavern spot in Cleveland Heights will officially become The Fix Bistro (2195 Lee Rd., 216 383-8130). The restaurant is an offshoot of the popular sandwich shop down the road called Black Box Fix, which chef Eric Rogers opened in the spring of 2015.

The Fix Bistro, says the chef, will be more along the lines of his first restaurant, Nevaeh Cuisine, which was located in South Euclid. That concept had more of a focus on Creole-style entrees and live entertainment than sandwiches. Originally, the chef had planned to keep the sandwich shop up and running, but later decided to incorporate that menu into the new spot and rebrand the old space.

The bistro menu features starters like Creole soul rolls stuffed with smoked turkey and andouille, veggie egg rolls filled with curried rice, deep-fried shrimp in a spicy sauce, and a sampler platter containing sliders, soul rolls and parmesan fries.

Most of the popular sandwiches served down the road at Black Box have made the move, including the OMG Philly made with grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers, and Creole shrimp, the LBJ with beef filet, grilled shrimp and mushrooms, onions and peppers, and the Mr. Martin, a sandwich filled with buttermilk fried chicken, BBQ sauce and slaw.

In the entrée department are dishes like buttermilk fried chicken served with collard greens and smoked gouda mashers, grilled salmon served atop jambalaya and topped with Creole cream sauce, and penne pasta in a Romano Alfredo sauce with chicken and andouille.

Since receiving the keys to the space, Rogers and business partner Larese Purnell have gutted and reworked much of the space. The casual 65-seat eatery has been brightened up and stripped down.

“Everything you see is new, clean, fresh and modern,” Rogers says. “People are going to very much enjoy this space. It’s definitely a nice date night spot and family friendly atmosphere.”

On weekends, live jazz, blues, or spoken word events will take place in the dining room.

While Rogers originally planned to keep Black Box Fix as a sandwich shop, his plans evolved, he says. Now, that space, which closed in July, will become The Sweet Fix Bakery (2307 Lee Rd.). The Southern-style dessert shop will sell classic items like sweet potato pie, pecan pie, pound cakes and peach cobblers, all available à la mode, as well as modern concepts like cake pops, brownies on a stick, and red velvet cookies with custom toppings.

Look for Sweet Fix to open in October.

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Man Arrested After More Than 350 Weed Plants Found During Raid

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

Douglas Stevens - COURTESY STARK CO.
  • Courtesy Stark Co.
  • Douglas Stevens
That Stark County Narcotics Unit has uncovered one of its largest marijuana grow raids to date, confiscating more than 350 plants in Waynesburg, near Canton.

The operation including a complex system of lighting, nutrients and irrigation, as well as a THC extraction lab. The plants were being grown both indoors and outdoors.

See, we told you it was huge.

The man believed to be responsible, Douglas Stevens, has been charged with several felonies including assembly and possession of chemicals for the manufacturing of drugs, possession of drugs and illegal cultivation of marijuana.

(Hat Tip WEWS)
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'Kinky Boots' Gets Better and Better with Each Visit to Connor Palace

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:12 PM

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When Kinky Boots played Playhouse Square in April 2015, while still running on Broadway, it was a really good performance. The show is back again and, believe it or not, it’s even better this time around.

The Harvey Fierstein (book) and Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) award-winning musical is back by demand for a short run.

Kinky Boots is based on the true story of a men’s shoe factory in England, which, when the cheap, mass-produced Asian knock-offs invaded the market, wiping out the handmade products, transitions to producing for a niche market: cross-dressing men who needed a sturdy boot that the Asians can’t produce.

The story, which was made into a 1999 British TV special, then a 2005 film, centers on Charlie Price, who is left a men’s high-end shoe company in Northampton, England, by his father, and Lola, a drag queen who has a fascination with shoes, but especially has designs set on red, spike-heeled boots.

The duo form a partnership when Charlie is faced with bankruptcy, causing the potential laying-off of his loyal employees, and Lola, who, along with her dancing Angels, keeps breaking the heels on their poorly made boots. It’s a match made in heaven, except for the prejudices against Lola, and the financial and personal pressures pressed on Charlie.

Take the story, which stresses that to be happy in life you must “accept someone for who they are,” add some pop, funk, new wave music, lyrics that are perfectly drawn for each character, humorous situations, and dynamic choreography, and you have a show which was given 13 Tony nominations and garnered six Tony wins, including Best Musical and Best Score.

Handsome J. Harrison Ghee is every bit as good as Billy Porter, the show’s original Lola. Ghee lights up the stage. He has a strong singing voice, and the charisma that makes Lola appealing, while showing vulnerability. He is a master at extended farce and is drag queen extraordinaire. His “Land of Lola,” sung with the Angels, is a dynamic showstopper.

Adam Kaplan, as Charlie, displays a personal vulnerability and insecurity that perfectly fit the character’s underpinnings, yet the strength to act with conviction when needed. He has a strong singing voice and nicely textures Charlie into a real person.

Kaplan’s “Soul of a Man “ and “Not My Father’s Son,” his duet with Gee, are emotional tear-jerkers that carry two of the script’s messages.

Tiffany Engen is adorable as Lauren, the girl who has a history of making bad dating choices as expressed the well sung “The History of Wrong Guys,” but may finally have found the right one in Charlie, if he can ditch his finance.

As Don, Aaron Walpole makes the transition from macho homophobe to charmer with ease as he takes to heart the idea of “accept someone for who they are,” the centerpiece of Fierstein’s bid for tolerance and acceptance.

The costumes and sets are professionally done and the orchestra, though it gets a little out of hand once in a while, drowning out the singers, is in fine tune.

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell has paced the show well, created many exciting dance numbers including “Everybody Say Yeah,” and the curtain closer, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

Tickets for Kinky Boots, which runs through Aug. 28 at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.

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Uncle Earl Reunites for Heartfelt Tour of Old-Time Appalachian Music

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:08 PM

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A few years back, the St. Vrain Creek in Lyons, Colorado, flooded the town something fierce. Across Boulder County and much of the central part of the state, a cold front mingled with humid air from the south and produced a series of natural disasters that left eight dead.

"This was the town that really brought our band together," Abigail Washburn tells Scene. She's talking about Uncle Earl, an old-time Appalachian string band based for some time in Lyons. "The flood had a devastating impact on so many people."

By then, though, in 2013, Uncle Earl hadn't been as active as they were in the 2000s. The core lineup had moved on to other projects, but when the call for fundraising and support came in the wake of the floods, each musician stepped up and rallied. They loved one another, after all.

"We just all wanted to see each other and be with each other again and check in after several years of being apart," Washburn says. (She's calling in from Lyons, actually, where she's staying with Uncle Earl founder KC Groves before taking a vacation to Australia.) The RockyGrass festival came together in short order, despite logistical and meteorological challenges, and Uncle Earl (Washburn on banjo, Groves on mandolin, Kristin Andreassen on guitar, and Rayna Gellert on fiddle) reunited to play the event.

From there, the musicians made an informal pact to keep playing brief reunion sets, short tours like the one that lands in Cleveland Sept. 4, and so they have.

"We just so enjoyed being together again," Washburn says. "When we stopped playing in that particular configuration, we all felt a lot of sadness about not having that time together. And we know this music had inspired a lot of people — especially young women — to start playing music, whether it be old-time or not. They saw this group of women up onstage, traveling and playing music, and they thought, 'I can do it too!' We want to go say hi to them again." (Interestingly enough, Colleen Miller, at Music Box Supper Club, helped support the band in their earlier days in her role at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.)

With that in mind, the band plans on touching all corners of the canon for these current shows. Going back through the albums and EPs today, it's clear that music is as timeless as ever — even as it remains rooted in a very specific era of American history.

The band's last album, 2007's Waterloo, Tennessee, opens with the upbeat melodies of "Black-Eyed Susie," which bleeds into a mysterious final few seconds where the title is sung in the background of the strings. Then, the rest of the album springs forth.

And it's a dynamic trip, this album. The band's last notch in the history books before parting ways for a spell is a varied jaunt through a different era. Communicating lessons on love, loss and happiness, Uncle Earl spins through that world of "old-time music," a patchwork of traditions that grew out of the earliest immigrants to America from Ireland and Scotland, and slaves from West Africa. When Africans were brought to America, slave traders played music on the ships to improve transatlantic survival rates – a way of keeping their spirits intact. Back on the plantation, slaves would play trancelike banjo music while Irish owners would perform a fiddle melody on top of that. “It's an extremely bittersweet root,” Washburn says of this important development in American music history. Jazz, blues, bluegrass and, later, rock 'n' roll all evolved out of the old-time Appalachian lineage.

Back around the turn of the millennium, genres like bluegrass and the amorphous “Americana” tagline began growing in popularity and shining a bright spotlight once again on banjos and fiddles. Unclear Earl, devoted in each musician's love for the legacy of those instruments, was there to ride the wave.

"Once this configuration came together, it just really took off," Washburn says of the mid-2000s. "It's like the band understood its purpose, and it was very clear that were an old-time Appalachian band that was going to take the music to different places in our collaborative songwriting."

Plus, the chemistry was off the charts, she says. That particular lineup toured here in the States and internationally for six years, laughing and loving one another and their growing fan base.

Part of the allure then and now is that Uncle Earl comprises a group of women in what might seem, if you dwell too long among the distorted world of music journalism, like a male-dominated community. Washburn points out, though, that the old-time traditions included many women and female-fronted bands. She cites the Coon Creek Girls, out of East Kentucky, as one of her favorite outfits from the 1930s. "We wanted to stay in that tradition, and we've loved doing that," she says.

Crediting, in part, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, for bringing old-time music to the mainstream for a while, Washburn and her all-women band found a nice in the right time – and enjoyed what they were doing. “We just laugh and laugh,” she says. “We have so much fun playing together.”

This time around, the band is touring in a bus – as opposed to a van, like the old days – and touring with their expanding families. Some things change, surely, but most things stay the same.

Uncle Earl
8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 4, Music Box Supper Club, 1148 Main Ave., 216-242-1250. Tickets: $18 ADV, $20 DOS, musicboxcle.com.


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Down for the Count: 'Hands of Stone' Underwhelms Inside and Outside the Ring

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 12:22 PM

Edgar Ramirez and Robert DeNiro in the ring.
  • Edgar Ramirez and Robert DeNiro in the ring.
Hands of Stone, about the life of boxer Roberto Duran, is directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz with all the precision of a person who seems himself to have taken one too many blows to the head.

The film combines two of Hollywood’s most tired tropes: the life-skimming biopic and the in-search-of-redemption boxing pic. And if you feel, upon hearing the words “boxing biopic,” that you could summarize the film’s beats without even seeing it, that’s most likely because you could.

The film starts promisingly enough. A low camera trek follows the heels of young Duran as he dashes through the slums of Panama. Poor and angered with the violent American occupation in the region, the young Duran is hungry as much for food as he is for agency, and, after making some coin beating down another local boy in a street fight, he finds himself being taken in by a local trainer.

It’s after this opening scene, when Edgar Ramirez takes over as the adult Duran, that things begin to get muddled. Political strife, a stable of unnecessary characters, leaps in time and place that are either sloppily handled or just downright confusing, changes in point-of-view characters and even a single, brief scene that dissolves jarringly into black and white, all lead to a truly messy affair.

Oh, and there are training montages. Lots and lots of training montages.

Ramirez has charm and talent to spare, but the character of Duran seems to go from one obnoxious antic to the next as the scenes of his life play out. Ray Arcel, a famed veteran trainer played by Robert De Niro, is brought in to tame the wild Duran, and eventually shepherds him to a championship bout against Duran’s arch-rival Sugar Ray Leonard.

(Arcel is given a few sublots of his own which are barely worth mentioning, including dull scenarios with his ever-patient wife, an adult, drug-addicted daughter who appears out of nowhere near the end of the picture, and the bubbling up of past trouble with the mob, all of which add even further to the film’s confused focus.)

Duran’s wife, Felicidad, played by the gosh-wow-stunning Ana de Armas (War Dogs), is given little challenging to do here other than look lovely in bad ‘70s attire. She spends the film popping out children and cheering Duran on to further bludgeoning. (In its one break with cliché, our hero pugilist’s love interest seems to care little for the health of her champion beau, pausing not even once to ask, Hey, maybe it’s time to stop getting your brains beaten in?)

Popster Usher — or, beg your pardon, Usher Raymond IV, as he’s listed in the credits — does play famed pretty-boy boxer Leonard with a hint of complicated brio, but Raymond looks just as hopelessly miscast in his boxing scenes as you might imagine. The real trouble with the Leonard character is that he actually comes off as likeable and root-worthy, whereas our hero Duran squanders any chance for our sympathies by remaining the same brash, self-aggrandizing child from the first frame to the last.

As Arcel, Robert De Niro actually seems to care about his performance in this film, which is a nice break from his recent wheel spinning, but ultimately you can’t help but feel that his is the old ‘a good performance in search of a better movie’ type of turn.

In the end we’re left asking, just what is Duran fighting for? For his country? Though we’re pounded over the head with nationalistic flashbacks from his restive childhood, we’re never made to feel that Duran hopes for anything more than Panamanian hero status in order to feed his own ego.

Is he fighting for his family?  His children only serve as punchlines — he insists on naming each of his sons Roberto — and the relationship with his wife, which could have been the steadying center of the film, seems rooted solely in the fact that they like to look at each other naked.

So is he fighting for himself? Maybe, but the character is so flat it’s hard to believe he has any real internal need for personal revival. Perhaps, ultimately, he's fighting for Arcel. But the relationship between Duran and his trainer lacks the complexity and heft to hold this messy and unsatisfying film together.

Hands of Stone is rated R and opens Friday in wide release.
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7 Concerts to Catch This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 12:14 PM

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FRIDAY, AUG. 26

Blaire Alise & The Bombshells


What is rock ‘n roll’s secret to defying naysayers and surviving past its sixtieth birthday? Steady transfusions of young blood! Fans of local teen garage punk phenoms Archie and the Bunkers (who are now internationally-acclaimed) will appreciate the spunk and youthful abandon of Blaire Alise and the Bombshells. Currently a student at New York University, Alise wasted no time establishing herself in Detroit’s longstanding garage rock scene. While still in high school, she founded the Bombshells, who recorded their 2014 debut album For My Darlin’ with Detroit’s Jim Diamond (the Dirtbombs, Bantam Rooster, les Sexareenos). The band followed it up with a 2015 EP, Just Another Day, and Alise signed with Nashville’s Carlin America. Alise’s vocals are laced with rockabilly sass and her songwriting spiked with pop sensibility. She doesn’t wait around for her fans to dance, but she sure does make it hard to stop once they do. (Bethany Kaufman), 9 p.m., $5. The Euclid Tavern.

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Get Pumped for Accidental Comedy Fest with New Ramon Rivas Clip

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 11:33 AM


Cleveland's own Ramon Rivas II, who'll be leading the charge at the Accidental Comedy Fest this weekend, has a forthcoming half-hour special on Comedy Central. 

A short clip of the performance is here available for your viewing pleasure. Note, also, Ramon's "Cleveland Made Me" sweatshirt and his Accidental Comedy ball cap, chilling on the stool in the background. 

Ramon's special will air, as fate would have it, on the opening night of Accidental Comedy Fest, at 12:30 a.m. 

Stay thirsty, Ramon. 
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