Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fitz and the Tantrums frontman chats with us about fall tour and new album

Fitz and the Tantrums have been labeled as everything from retro-soul to indie-pop to a latter day version of Hall and Oates. “You can’t use one or two words to describe our music,” says frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, whose band appears at the Masonic Auditorium Nov. 6. “There are a lot of different flavors going on.”

The band has been riding a high since last year’s release of its sophomore album More Than Just a Dream. The album has spawned two No. 1 indie chart hits – “Out of My League” and “The Walker.” “On this album the only thing we weren’t allowed to do was limit ourselves,” says Fitzpatrick.

Produced by Tony Hoffer, best known for his work with Beck, More Than Just a Dream had plenty of material to draw on as the group produced more than 40 songs following a stint on the road. The last song to make the album, “Fool’s Gold,” is one of Fitzpatrick’s favorites. “It’s about something everybody’s experienced at one point; looking back at a relationship with regret while hopefully learning something from mucking it up,” he says. “Our first record was almost exclusively about heartbreak and love still rears its head on this record.”

The LA-based band has a rigorous touring schedule this year, hitting many of the major festivals and playing the Opening Night Ceremony for the U.S. Open tennis tournament in August. “It’s a very strange experience to be disconnected from family and friends for years at a time,” says Fitzpatrick of adjusting to life on the road. “Cleveland is special for us because it was one of the first places we felt we were having success. It was really a jumping off point for us in the Midwest.”

By Barry Goodrich 

M is for Marvelous

On my recent stop at Pairings, Ohio's new wine and culinary education center, I tasted a red that blew up my ideas about what could be made from local grapes. The explosion came courtesy of the 2012 Meritage from M Cellars in Geneva. It's a blended Bordeaux-style wine, made with cabernet sauvignon, cab franc, merlot and petit verdot, aged in Hungarian oak. Grower and vintner Matt Meineke calls it  a field wine, meaning the fruit is all picked and fermented together, and he's the only registered producer in the state. More importantly, it's a fantastic, full-bodied sophisticated wine with whispers of berries, smoke and wood. Curious about the who, what and why of this 2-year-old winery, I made it my business to go there the following day.

It's a beautiful spot — acres of grapes, a patio overlooking the fields, a handsome modern tasting room and spacious airy dining room where Meineke, his wife Tara and guest chefs host occasional and exclusive wine dinners. In fact, the next one, a celebration of corn and tomatoes is scheduled for September 5 and the menu prepared by Bob Sferra looks amazing.  I had a chance to preview all Matt's wines that will be served and some not yet available ones as well, and they're all pretty amazing too.

His gruner veltliner, uncommon for this region, is unfiltered with intense notes of apple and pear. He's offering another lovely white, Rkatsiti, that is new to me and made from an ancient Ukrainian grape. Matt describes it as "sauvignon blanc without the grass." I love his dry riesling, and the soon-to-be-released 2013 vintage is even better than the year before  — a terrific balance of acid and fruity with a bigger mouthfeel and his earthy rose. The pinot noir is sturdy and round with lots of baking spice flavor. None are typical for this region.

Jillian Davis, owner of Toast, told me she always tries to keep something of theirs on her list." I agree that the wines are surprising and head and shoulders above what anyone else is doing in this area. I keep telling people they're not just good-for Ohio wines. They're good wines!"In Cleveland, some of his wines are also available at Flying Fig,  Bin 216 and the Market Avenue Wine Bar. But the weather's still fine, the drive is short, and the experience such a nice one, so I suggest planning a trip to M Cellars for a tasting of your own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Seek Sun, Surf and Stand-up Paddleboarding at Weekend Festival

Photo by Billy Delfs

If you lived in Ohio for any length of time, you know summer doesn't last long here. So soak up some late August sun this Saturday at Whiskey Island Paddle Board Race & Festival featuring racing, live music from local band Analog Union, eats from Boca Loca Burrito Factory, a beer garden and free Inner Bliss yoga classes. "It's gonna be a party," says Lynne Nagy, educator at Nalu Stand up Paddle & Surf in Rocky River. Here are three reasons to hit the beach.

Surf's Up: Dive into a 2-mile loop stand-up paddleboarding race at 8:30 a.m., or go big for the 6-mile, three-lap version, with a kids' course along the shoreline starting at 10 a.m. and a relay race starting at 1 p.m. For paddleboarding newbies, try a demo. In a fun twist on the regular demo, Nalu SUP & Surf combines yoga poses with paddleboarding —  right in the water. Don't have a board? Nalu has some available to rent. 

Keep the Peace: The festival goes from surf to turf when Inner Bliss Yoga Studio's Lanie leads a free lakeside yoga session on the shore. “[Lanie's] regular classes always sell out, because she brings something new every time,” Nagy says. Bring your own mat.

Jam Session: Cleveland surfer Scott Ditzenberger’s band Analog Union will bring a taste of California with their punk-infused surf jams. Stick around for a ukulele performance by Brad Sweet, who invites festival-goers to bring their own instruments and play along. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Former Indians Announcer Pens Gripping War Novel to Honor Late Dad

John Corrigan

Jack Corrigan thought he knew his dad. Everyone knew his dad. He was judge John V. Corrigan, who served Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court from 1956-91. It wasn’t until his sister discovered a 12-page letter written by their father that he learned about his father’s bravest and most terrifying moments. In the letter, John described the horrific scene that he witnessed as a medic on Christmas Eve in 1944, when the SS Leopoldville was attacked by enemy forces and sunk in the English Channel. The attack killed hundreds of American soldiers, and John was part of the rescue crew that dragged hundreds of bodies — dead and alive — out of the frigid water.

After reading the letter, Corrigan, who was an announcer for the Cleveland Indians for 17 years and is now an announcer for the Colorado Rockies, talked to his father about WWII for the first time. Their conversation and the letter inspired Corrigan’s second novel, Night of Destiny (FaithHappenings Publisher, available on Amazon for $13.30). The book, released this June, follows three young soldiers and the battle of the SS Leopoldville on Christmas Eve 1944. Surgical Tech Sgt. Dan Gibbons,  the character based off of John, rescues soldiers, both ally and enemy, from imminent death. We caught up with Corrigan, who penned most of the novel after his father's death, to discuss Night of Destiny.

Q. What was it like to have that conversation with your father?

A. When we actually sat down for that long conversation in Denver, it was illuminating to see the sometimes-scared 24-year-old that he was at the time. To me, my father was always the ultimate in confidence and always being sure. Then, to see him talk frankly about, “Well, what if I mess up?”, “Are we doing the right thing?” or “I don’t want to die, but I want to help people.” Hearing him and feeling the emotion, that was when I was like, I’ve got to do this. No matter how long this takes me, this is a project that I’m going to see to light.

Q. How much did you know about your father’s time in the war prior to that conversation?

A. To be honest, very little. I think he was like so many of that generation. They just didn’t talk about it. When the movie Saving Private Ryan came out, I said to my dad, “Hey, you want to go see Private Ryan? It might be interesting to go see it.” He looked at me, not angrily but, in a serious way and said, “I saw it once, why would I want to see it again?” I think we end up making them heroic figures or making them very one-dimensional in that regard, and you realize it's much more than that. I think that was the first time it actually struck me.

Q. Was writing the book a therapeutic way to grieve the loss of your father?

A. They brought in a hospital bed, and he was getting hospice at home. I was sitting there, and I said to him, “Life is going to be hard. How am I going to go on without you around, because you’ve always been larger than life to me.” He said, “Well think of your shadow. Your shadow is larger than you are, but it’s always there with you. So whenever you see your shadow, you know that I’m always there.” That’s something that has sustained me since his passing, and the book was all part of that. I can feel his shadow, and I could feel his presence as the book was unfolding. It was very therapeutic, and it’s nice now because it also keeps his memory alive in a unique way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Gay Are We: Out in the Open

The Global Rainbow at Aha! Festival of Lights.
The sign read “gender-neutral bathroom.” It was posted at the Cleveland Museum of Art during the pre-Gay Games party, Night Before 9, and for me, it was not just a cardboard cutout – it was a step toward inclusion for Cleveland. Our city hasn’t always been kind to the transgender community — just last year there were a series of attacks that led to the deaths of three women and discrimination from local news sources. To see such an important institution be accepting of gender expression and welcome the transgender community —which has for a long time remained invisible and often overlooked — it was as if the city itself had opened its arms.

As a member of the LGBT community, I was speechless during the opening ceremonies at the Quicken Loans Arena when participants from San Francisco carried a massive rainbow flag as spectators stood and cheered them on. And when the Russian Federation entered the arena, greeted by a standing ovation after having suffered from so much persecution at the hands of their own government over the last year, I cried. I was not only overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of love and grace that was being lifted up, but also from being a single gay man united with thousands of individuals who applauded the perseverance of those who have suffered, celebrating pride in self-expression and honoring all of those who felt they didn’t have a voice. I never thought I would ever see something like it in my lifetime — a place in which everyone was united in their individuality regardless of race, class, sexual orientation or gender. By the end, I was convinced that Cleveland was proud that the Gay Games had arrived in our city.

I returned to Akron telling all my friends how incredible it was that there was so much freedom of expression in Cleveland. Having lived in several small towns in Northeast Ohio where being gay was never openly discussed nor expressed, I couldn’t help but boast how amazed I was that Cleveland was changing the game. My friends saw it for themselves, too — having grown used to suppressing public displays of affection — they were shocked by how many same-sex couples were holding hands and embracing one another in Public Square. They couldn’t stop talking about how great it was that City Hall was flying the LGBT flag, and only after checking with one another whether it would be OK, did they reach for the others’ hand.

Toward the end of the week, I was stopped by a visitor from San Francisco who asked, "Are the people of Cleveland always this nice?" I thought about it as we walked side by side down a dark street toward the rainbow-lit Terminal Tower and away from GG9 Festival Village where hundreds of strangers were dancing with each other under neon-colored lights. When we reached the corner, I stopped and said, "No, Cleveland hasn't always been this open, but it's been getting better over the last five years." He nodded his head, congratulated me on how polite we all were, and then asked if Cleveland had always been this gay. I couldn't help but smile, considering the cover of this month's issue of Cleveland Magazine, but when I finally turned to give him an answer all I could say was, "We've always been here. We've just been waiting for the right time."

There have been more advances in LGBT activism in our country in the last 10 years than there have been in the last 100. With 19 states now supporting same-sex marriages and 21 states offering nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBT individuals, Ohio isn’t that far behind. We’ve created domestic partner registries, we’ve started begin to recognizing same-sex marriages from other states, and we have openly-gay officials in office such as state Rep. Nickie Antonio, who is actively fighting for nondiscrimination laws to protect the LGBT community at home and in the workplace.

As GG9 came to an end, I kept thinking about where we might go from here and what needs to happen next. And while there’s certainly a lot of work left to be done at the state level, I returned to those nights out on Mall C where everyone danced, to those quiet dinners where gay couples reached across the table to hold hands and to those moments when gay athletes were cheered on.

Whether the pride flags come down or they remain flying, Cleveland should hold on to the hope that this has been and can be a city where we all live without judgment, able to love freely and be who we really are 100 percent of the time.

NEO Napa

In June, the region took a big step in branding itself as a distinctive grape growing and wine making district with the opening of Pairings in Ashtabula County. The lovely new center, years in the making and meant to showcase Ohio vintners doing high quality, medal-winning Euro-style wines, features a tasting room for their products — most from the Grand River and Lake Erie viticulture appellations — as well as an outdoor patio where visitors can enjoy wines by the glass or the bottle, and a kitchen and dining room for culinary demos, hands-on classes and special dinners. The center, off Geneva's main drag at the end of a dirt driveway, is also a starting point and stop along the way for local winery tours.

A few grape vines edge an empty field in front of the building now. One day, there will be a complete winemaking operation there that will serve as an incubator for start-ups and a visitor education center. For now, farmers set up shop there on Saturdays. The place is open seven days a week. A chef grills food to go with selected wines every Thursday night from 5:30 to 7:30. A tapas dinner is scheduled for Aug. 30, with advance reservations required.

My inaugural visit to Pairings was all discovery and delight. The facility, a converted barn, is done up in weathered wood with garage doors that are opened in good weather. A copper-topped, U-shaped bar has stools on the two long sides for those who want to spend some serious time sampling flights of reds and whites. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find some good, nuanced dry wines being poured. I really enjoyed the 2012 Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon from Valley Vineyards, located in the Ohio River Valley near Cincinnati. Cask 1013, a blend from Madison's Grand River Cellars, had an intriguing complexity that comes as much from the blending of both red vinifera and vintage years. The number on label meant that it was started in 2010, wine from the 2011 and 2012 harvests added and bottled in 2013. The result was impressive. I learned about how it was made from staff member Nancy Evans. Her presence really enriched the experience. A recent graduate of Kent State's fledgling enology program and winemaker herself, she talked us through our tasting, providing knowledgeable commentary, thoughtful insights, and insider tips. If you end up buying a bottle after a tasting, the retail price is discounted by $5.

Nancy also hooked me up with a really interesting local winemaker that I went to meet the following day. More on him and the amazing wines he's creating next week.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Gay Are We:GG9 Ends with Hot 7 Deadly Sins After-party

The Gay Games closed its weeklong event with a rather steamy, sinful bash at the House of Blues Saturday night. With dimmed lights, candle-lined bars and local go-go boys personifying the seven deadly sins, the official after-party was underway. Celebrity transgender model, Amanda Lepore invited Murray Swanby, Pablo Hernandez and Cory Zwierzynski from Andrew Christian, a popular men's underwear line, onto the stage after Real Housewives of New York City star Carole Radziwill hand-selected 10 hunks from the crowd to dress down and dance alongside them. Famous for their music videos and known for targeting the gay community with their brand, the Andrew Christian models threw free underwear into the crowd before joining the party. As the night went on, models danced on elevated platforms while several members of the crowd stripped down, and when the lights came on at 2 a.m., it was clear that no one really wanted to leave it all behind.

Murray Swanby, Pablo Hernandez, Cory Zwierzynski and Amanda Lepore

Carole Radziwill and Amanda Lepore looking fabulous in the Foundation Room

The Andrew Christian boys take the stage.