Enter the Vortex

A vibrant new club/art gallery lights up the East Bank of the Flats.

Dr. Bob of the Akfar Project, at the band's - opening-night gig at the Vortex. - Walter  Novak
Dr. Bob of the Akfar Project, at the band's opening-night gig at the Vortex.

The blacklight poster of a magic mushroom, emblazoned with the caption "Eat Me," is the first indication of the psychedelic sensibilities that inform the Vortex, the new Flats club in the space once occupied by the Basement (1078 Old River Road). It's followed by the leering image of Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat, with the tagline "We're all mad here."

The eye-popping, bi-level venue, which held its grand opening last Saturday, is designed to be half concert club and half art gallery. And while the opening-night turnout wasn't all that, the club itself certainly appears to be.

The Vortex's black-and-white stage is bookended by the front and back of a VW bug, with phosphorescent doodlings above the bar and rock posters from Primus to Jimi Hendrix posted throughout the lower level. On opening night, the Afkar Project kicked things off with a fittingly chaotic, Zappa-style free-for-all that was followed by Moon the Giant and Candiamore.

Upstairs is the art gallery, where two dozen pieces, ranging from large, incandescent paintings to smaller abstract drawings, are on display. It's a collection as striking as its spacious surroundings, settled amid velvet maroon sofas and an amoeba-shaped bar. The gallery opens to an outdoor patio, where the club plans to host concerts this summer.

The Vortex's vibe springs from the minds of Dr. Bob, a rocker who's the band leader in popster Connor O'Brien's group, and Diane Von Loewe, who designed the club's interior and curates the Vortex gallery (and contributes many of her own paintings). The pair hope that their combination of music and art under one roof provides a symbiotic safe haven for Cleveland creative types. Musicians and artists interested in appearing at the Vortex should contact the club at [email protected] or 216-320-1033. Ask for Dr. Bob.

Rancorous blues legend T-Model Ford's May 22 show at the Beachland Ballroom will be recorded for a live release by Ford's label, Fat Possum Records. Get there early and drink late with the original "Chicken Head Man."

Up-and-coming hard-rock troupe Hybrid Factor will be filming a video for its song "Another Sleepless Night" this Friday at No Excuses (27330 Lorain Road in North Olmsted). The show will double as a release party for the band's self-titled, four-song debut, which was produced by John Comprix (13 Faces, Integrity).

The Colin John Band will be cutting a live album with acclaimed New York singer-guitarist Michael Hill, who's been called "the missing link between Howlin' Wolf and Living Colour." The all-acoustic blues album will be recorded at a trio of shows where the Colin John Band and Hill will perform together: March 14 at Liberty Blues in Akron, March 15 at Fat Jerry's in Zanesville, and March 16 at Cheers in Canton.