Category Archives: Music

Twilight at the Zoo: Why It’s a Cleveland Summer Must-Do

The mayflies have come and gone and the July 4th holiday is here. In the Hicken house, this means it’s time to start making plans for the rest of summer.

I don’t care what else I do between now and September — Twilight at the Zoo is my big must-do for this summer.

TWI_general admission party2

After scheduling conflicts kept us from going in previous years, Scott and I made sure last summer’s Twilight at the Zoo stayed open on our calendar.

And it seemed as if the gods would smile upon us for an evening of outdoor music and summer drinking … until the rains came. And, boy, did they come.

But you know what? Despite getting drenched and only seeing a few of the bands perform, Scott and I had a fantastic time with our friends. Plus we had a reason to buy matching safari hats.

(I tell myself that we needed something to keep the rain out of our eyes, but the real reason is that we love safari hats.)

I also got this awesome photo with WhyCLE’s husband:

Twilight at the Zoo rainstorm

The evening was one of the highlights of last summer, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good weather on August 1, the date of this year’s Twilight at the Zoo.

From 7pm til midnight, stages will be staggered through the Zoo, featuring 18 local bands.

There will be something to satisfy every musical taste – funk to folk, rock to reggae. This year’s bands include:

TWI_general admission party

General admission tickets, which cost $80 per person or $700 for a block of 10, also include free Sam Adams beer, Twisted Tea, wine and soda and a selection of small bites to eat.

Upgrade to VIP tickets ($150 per ticket/$1200 for block of 10) and get access to the VIP party from 6-9pm.  VIP partygoers enjoy priority parking and early entry, an open bar, and catering by AMP150, Carrabba’s, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Mitchell’s Fish Market. 

And don’t drink and drive: Arrange for a designated driver or book one of the Zoo’s hotel/ticket packages with the Cleveland Airport Marriott.

Purchase tickets online or go here for more information.

One other thing … if you’re planning on getting tickets, get them now. This event usually sells out, and if this year’s Date Night at the Zoovies is any indication (sold out yesterday for an August 22 event), Twilight tickets may be gone sooner than later.

Hope to see you there! I’ll be packing safari hat just in case.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Twilight at the Zoo with a guest, in exchange for promoting the event. Opinions are 100% my own and based on attending last year’s Twilight.

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Cleveland’s Tri-C JazzFest

TRI-C JAZZFEST

In its heyday, PlayhouseSquare played host to crooners, jazz and big bands musicians like Bing Crosby and ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Now, as PlayhouseSquare’s revitalization hits a dazzling high, Cleveland’s own jazz festival, the Tri-C JazzFest has unveiled a new format celebrating the district.

It’s the 35th anniversary of the Tri-C JazzFest and they’re making a big move – closing down Euclid Ave. between 13th and 14th St with three days of concerts.

From June 26-28, music lovers can take in twelve ticketed shows throughout PlayhouseSquare’s theatres, plus a host of free outdoor music, food trucks and Great Lakes brews on Star Plaza.

Concerts include trumpeter Sean Jones and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra opening the festival on June 26; Eddie Palmieri, whose career as bandleader spans 50 years, with a night of salsa and Latin jazz on June 27; and pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias performing her tribute to Chet Baker at the Hanna on June 28. Check out the full schedule below:

JazzFest lineup

The free Star Plaza concerts, which are the latest centennial gifts from the Cleveland Foundation, will take place outside on Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28 starting at 3pm.

You can learn more about the musicians and purchase tickets on the JazzFest website.

You can also win two tickets right here to the Raul Midón concert on June 28!

Blind since infancy, Midón grew up listening to his father’s collection of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis records, as well as the pop music of the time: Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon.

He writes on the JazzFest’s website: “The way I play today is an amalgam of those styles, mixed with my fascination with the great rock and blues guitarists like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. I’m constantly trying to integrate everything I know musically into the guitar.”

The New York Times describes Midón as “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus.” And now you can enjoy his concert at the Hanna Theatre by entering my giveaway.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment telling me who your favorite jazz, blues or swing musician is.

2) If you’re a fan of Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

3) Follow @ADHicken and @TriCJazzFest on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to see @RaulMidon at @PlayhouseSquare on 6/28. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for #TriCJazzFest tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2w3

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Tuesday, June 17 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Wednesday, June 18, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Tri-C JazzFest with a guest in exchange for previewing the event. My choice to blog about the festival is based on how much Scott and I have enjoyed these concerts in years past. Opinions are my own.

A New (York) State Of Mind: Billy Joel in Concert

Blogkeeping: Congrats to entry 8, Kim for winning the Uncorked giveaway. Please reply by the end of today to confirm you can attend.
Scott and me seeing Billy Joel for the first time at the Q in Cleveland

Our first Billy Joel concert at the Q in Cleveland

Last week, I fulfilled 10-year-old Amanda’s dream of seeing Billy Joel in concert. Although I initially had to drag Scott with me, Billy Joel had a new lifelong fan by the end of the concert.

I had never been to a Billy Joel concert before last Tuesday night. In fact, before then, any significant exposure to Billy Joel I’d had was what played on the radio in my formative years, when my only indicator of “what successful music sounds like” was nothing more than “it played on the radio.”

All the more I knew of Billy Joel was that “Weird Al” Yankovic did the It’s Still Billy Joel To Me spoof (and if “Weird Al” spoofed you it meant you were pretty damn important) and that, during my time in chorus, we had a lot of very hoity-toity vocal adaptations of Billy Joel songs which had some very deep – or at least intricate – lyrics. So I never formed my own opinion of Billy Joel, instead carrying on a concept that was formed over decades from other people’s reverence.

It was this conception of a lauded and serious artist that I took into the concert. As Billy Joel entered the Q’s performance stage and sat down at the piano under a single blue spotlight, I was 100% prepared for the show to be little more than Billy Joel dutifully playing each of his hits, with nay but a pause between for a sip of water. I’ve seen the same from lesser-known songsters.

Let me be perfectly blunt upfront – Billy Joel in concert was amazing. Basked in a soft glowing light while seated at his piano, the man pointed out at the people surrounding him in the fully packed Q and observed that while he hadn’t released a pop album in two decades he was still touring to massively sold-out crowds.

This wasn’t ego talking. He’d brought it up so that he could proudly announce his own career was proof that he was “full of crap and lies.”

This was in reference to lyrics he had written for his song The Entertainer, “I won’t be here in another year; If I don’t stay on the charts.”

This statement made it clear from the start that Billy Joel had an acute self-awareness of himself that allowed a very a unique attitude to show through during the concert.

I have no idea if Tuesday night’s performance is reflective of the concert experience across his entire career, but I know that it certainly shattered my expectations of him.

Subtle aspects of this unexpected mindset popped up throughout the night.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

There were the intermittent segments Amanda and I began to call “Story Time With Uncle Billy” where the audience was regaled with tales of being stranded and cursed at on Ohio freeways, and his claims that Ted Nugent needed to aim his throat spray “up his ass.

There was the lengthy explanation of every factual inaccuracy and “complete bullshit” to be found within The Ballad of Billy the Kid. Or the alternate lyrics for She’s Always a Woman: “She’ll ruin your face with her powerful thighs.” And yes, I heard that right.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. As the show’s three-quarter mark ticked over, Billy Joel stood up and was handed a bright red electric guitar.

I didn’t know that he was introducing the defining moment of my existence on this planet, when I would realize I had now lived a Complete Life.

Billy Joel told the audience that he hoped the next song would be a religious experience, and that he would be welcoming to the stage a roadie that had been with his crew for many years.

At this point, imagine if you will, a middle-aged Al Lewis stomping out onto the hardwood. His many arm tattoos were visible thanks to the black Guy Harvey t-shirt that had the sleeves cut off with a deep V of fabric that ran down his ribs. He had in his hand, pressed firmly to his mouth, a microphone.

Billy Joel introduced him to us with his given Christian name of “Chainsaw.”

Chainsaw then broke into Highway to Hell, with Billy Joel rocking out on the guitar. And I do mean the full, 3-minute and 29-second song. Chainsaw stomped around the stage shouting at camera men, instrumentalists, and front row audience members. Billy Joel dug deep into that guitar. Red lights and spectacle flashed around them. It was a fantastic rendition.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

When the song was over the soft lighting once again came up. Chainsaw retired to the back, and Billy Joel handed over his guitar while retaking his seat at the rotating piano.

The expected lyrical repertoire earnestly resumed with the same energetic humor displayed earlier in the night, punctuated now and then by the odd rendition of Uptown Girl.

But nothing quite matched the “What the Hell did I just see?” moment that had arisen when Billy Joel shared the stage, and an AC/DC cover, with Chainsaw.

So, my friends, that is what I wished to share of our experience. After the other night, any of my thoughts of a “stuffy songwriter nearing the end of his career taking for granted the endurance of his work” were blanched out.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not to recommend that you go see Billy Joel in Concert, should he tour near you:

On one hand it’s an amazing experience orchestrated with great love by a talented man who clearly wants you to have as much fun in the audience as he’s having on stage.

On the other hand, as you leave the concert, your mind may be completely blown by the realization that Life will be all downhill from there forward.

Largely thanks to a man called Chainsaw.

Free Concert: CityMusic Cleveland’s World Premiere Inspired by Cleveland Refugee Community

Blogkeeping: Congrats Jenny S for winning the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo giveaway. Please reply to my email by end of today to confirm you can still attend.
CityMusic Cleveland will perform the world premiere of Dan Visconti's Roots to Branches, along with Ung's Khse Buon for cello solo and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" on March 12-16

CityMusic Cleveland will perform the world premiere of Dan Visconti’s Roots to Branches, along with Ung’s Khse Buon for cello solo and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” on March 12-16

Cleveland has a rich ethnic heritage, dating back far into the city’s history and spanning many cultures. The Cleveland Memory Project, for instance, hosts some fascinating information from The Greater Cleveland Ethnographic Museum’s Immigrant Experience Project, which recorded the stories of approximately ninety immigrants from over thirty cultural backgrounds.

Today, many refugee populations continue to forge a new home in the Cleveland region.

A new musical piece commissioned by CityMusic Cleveland weaves together the stories of these communities, the hardship and oppression they’ve fled, and their long journey to settle in Cleveland.

Dan Visconti’s Roots to Branches will make its world premiere this week during CityMusic’s March concert series.

As with all of their concert series, CityMusic will tour the performance at different locations around Cleveland. And in keeping with CityMusic’s mission to make chamber music more accessible, every concert is free though donations are welcomed.

The concert premieres tomorrow, March 12 at 7:30pm at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Other performances include:

Visconti worked with CityMusic and Grammy-winning percussionist Shane Shanahan to produce this new work, a concerto for hand percussion with orchestra and narrator. In an email to CityMusic supporters, he shared what inspired the composition:

“The title of the concerto comes from this quote, from an interview with a local Bhutanese refugee:

‘I have lost my roots but gained many branches; my family tree flowers once again with the promise of opportunity, and in my turn my greatest hope is to give back to this great country that has given my family a new chance to blossom.’

In turns hair-raising, offbeat, and joyous, the concerto Roots to Branches features percussion instruments from around the globe, gives expressive voice to these refugees’ experiences, and paints a portrait of a population that is already giving back to the community that offered them the chance of a better life.”

In addition to Roots to Branches, this week’s concert series will include Khse Buon for cello solo by Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”. An IndieGoGo project is also underway to record Roots to Branches so that the stories of our community’s refugees can be told to others.

Roots to Branches' composer Dan Visconti

Composer Dan Visconti

This will be only my second CityMusic Cleveland concert. When I attended their Viennese Waltz Kings concert in December, I fell in love with CityMusic’s mission of calling attention to social concerns while making chamber music more accessible to the Cleveland community. It also helped that the performance was incredible and the group’s welcoming spirit was so contagious.

It’s no surprise that as they celebrate their 10th anniversary, CityMusic Cleveland is reaching nearly 20,000 people per season.

In conjunction with the concerto’s world premiere, CityMusic will be at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland on Sunday, March 16. Join them and special guests from Cleveland’s refugee community to learn kids’ songs from all over the globe. The interactive presentation will take place at 10:30am, 11:30am, and 12:30pm.

They’ll also be presenting a program with Global Cleveland at the City Club of Cleveland on March 21. At noon, global human rights activist Kerry Kennedy will speak about the plight of modern-day refugees, highlighting the stories of hidden communities of refugees settling in the US, including those from Bhutan/Nepal, Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia. Call 216-621-0082 to make reservations.

Disclosure: I was asked to share this event on my blog; however, I would have anyway because I support CityMusic’s mission and was already planning on attending one of the free concerts. Opinions here are 100% my own.

Holiday Hijinks and Haberdashery at Prosperity Social Club’s Smokin’ Fez Monkeys Show

One of my favorite Cleveland bands and Cleveland bars come together to sing in the holidays

“What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?”
“It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”
– Doctor Who

Fezzes are cool, and the Smokin’ Fez Monkeys know what’s up with a nod to this humble haberdashery in their name.

When Scott and I first saw the Smokin’ Fez Monkeys at the 2011 Avon Duct Tape Festival, it was love at first listen.

Their mission is “to do to music what the Wienermobile did to the auto, what M.C. Escher did to the third dimension, what Bugs Bunny did to Elmer Fudd.” And they make good on that promise with plenty of wit, tomfoolery, and jazzy-ragtime-jug band music.

Smoky vocals mix with the sounds of the bass, fiddle, banjo, and Jinglestick — resulting in a show that’s a bit like the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Now, combine the musical hijinks of the Smokin’ Fez Monkeys with the Tremont treasure that is Prosperity Social Club, and you have the makings of a Christmas miracle.

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Cleveland’s Holiday Arts and Entertainment: My 2013 Top 10

Blogkeeping: Congratulations, entry 6 – Melanie, for winning the Rachael Ray Week in a Day giveaway. Please respond to my email by 5pm ET on Wednesday (12/11).

Holiday Arts and Entertainment: Great Lakes Theater's A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (now through December 22); photo by Roger Mastroianni

It’s time for one of my favorite blog posts of the year — my wrap-up of holiday arts and entertainment coming to Cleveland. From the return of popular classics to new takes on old tales, here are my 10 picks for what to see around Cleveland this December.

Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol (through December 22)

This December, Great Lakes Theater celebrates a milestone for their annual holiday production — the 25th anniversary of A Christmas Carol! Through December 22, take the family to see their twist on the Charles Dickens classic. It’s Christmas Eve, twenty years after Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. The Cleaveland family sits down to read the story as it comes alive onstage, seen through the imagination of the family’s youngest child.

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Free CityMusic Cleveland Concerts Celebrate the Viennese Waltz Kings

Blogkeeping: Monday is the last day to enter my Rachael Ray Week in a Day giveaway. You can tweet daily for more entries.

City Music Cleveland logo

www.CityMusicCleveland.org

There are a handful of moments I think back to that reaffirm how grateful I am to have moved to Cleveland: The first time I set foot in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Learning about PlayhouseSquare Partners at their Back to the Future Night. My first Ohio Blogging meetup.

On Wednesday I added another memory to that list when Scott and I attended our first CityMusic Cleveland concert. Combine an evening of dazzling music, a stunning setting, and warm company, and I was officially hooked.

To top it all off, CityMusic’s concerts are free for everyone.

Now celebrating its 10th season, CityMusic Cleveland was founded by six friends who wanted to make chamber music accessible to everyone while fostering stronger communities through the arts.

So they came up with the crazy-good idea of bringing free concerts to neighborhoods all over Cleveland — eliminating the twin barriers of high ticket prices and unfamiliar venues.

Ten years later, they’re reaching some 19,110 people per season and even performed at the Lincoln Center.

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The Clue-Down: 12 Upcoming Cleveland Events

Reminder: You have til Monday 8/19 at 11:59pm to enter the Taste of the Browns Giveaway. You can tweet once a day for extra entries (just leave a separate comment on the post for each tweet).
Cleveland Upcoming Events: This is the last weekend for Literary Lots in Cleveland / artwork by Julia Kuo

This is the last weekend for Literary Lots / artwork by Julia Kuo

There’s much more going in Cleveland than I’m able to blog about.  And while this post still doesn’t capture everything that’s happening, here’s my ‘clue-down’ of upcoming Cleveland events that caught my eye.

THIS WEEKEND

Last Weekend of Literary Lots:  If you haven’t been able to check out Literary Lots this summer, this is the last weekend.  This month Literary Lots turned a vacant lot at Novak Park (Lorain on W. 38th) into a world of creativity for the community. In addition to revitalizing the public space, they’ve offered programming throughout the month that runs til August 18. Today, Friday and Saturday, there will be storytelling, poetry slams, printmaking and other workshops throughout the day. And on Saturday night starting at 8:30pm, all ages are invited to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the lot.  You can see all of their events at literarylots.org/events.

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Guest Post: When “Weird Al” Rocked My World

Before we get down to business, some blog-keeping:
1) Did you miss your chance to buy Zoovies tickets before it sold out? You’re in luck! I’m giving away 2 tickets and you have until Aug. 12 at 11:59pm to enter.
2) Speaking of giveaways, my Taste of the Browns giveaway starts next Tuesday so remember to stop back for that.
3) Today’s post is from Scott. He is an always-patient partner in crime so when I was invited to blog about a summer Live Nation concert, I immediately knew I wanted us to see “Weird Al.” Read on and you’ll understand why.
The crowd fills in for "Weird Al" Yankovic at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights

The crowd fills in for “Weird Al” Yankovic at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights

There are three things every concert needs, and these three things will make the difference between a disappointing event and an amazing evening.

One, of course, is an audience. A concert without an audience is just a sad musician with a microphone. And an audience is something that no one has any control over. So it is the remaining two items that I will dedicate the majority of this post to.

First I want to touch on venue. Location can make or break an event. Whether you are stepping into the basement concert space of Mahall’s Twenty Lanes or the classical wonder that is Severance Hall, the venue creates a tone before any instrument does.

The Evans Amphitheater in Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park is a wonderful space. I find this to be because of the eclectic atmosphere.

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Cleveland Zoo Continues Rocking the Summer with Twilight at the Zoo

After transforming the Zoo into a festive patio party, the Cleveland Zoological Society continues to rock this summer with Twilight at the Zoo, August 2.

After transforming the Zoo into a festive patio party, the Cleveland Zoological Society continues to rock this summer with Twilight at the Zoo, August 2.

I can’t believe summer is already halfway through. On the one hand, it’s mid-July and Labor Day feels like it’s around the corner. But then I also feel like the Cleveland Zoological Society’s ZippityZooDoo was just yesterday. Their annual summer kickoff was so much fun that it’ll be hard to forget any time soon.

Decorations from the peacock-themed ZippityZooDoo

Decorations from the peacock-themed ZippityZooDoo

As Scott and I walked into the Zoo on June 7, we were met with a landscape of blues, purples and greens. Giant (fake) peacocks were perched above on trapeze swings and sounds from The Orchestra welcomed us to the gorgeous patio party.

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