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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Local Musicians Talk About Surviving the COVID Shutdown and Returning To Playing Live

Posted By on Thu, Jul 29, 2021 at 11:35 AM

Local indie rockers Arms & Armour. - COURTESY OF ARMS & ARMOUR
  • Courtesy of Arms & Armour
  • Local indie rockers Arms & Armour.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut things down some 17 months ago, no one knew what to expect. As the days, weeks and months began to add up, the isolation became acute for many, not least of all musicians, for whom live shows are lifeblood, an exchange of energy with the audience.

“I missed the rehearsals and the road,” says local producer Javier Davis, echoing the sentiment of many gigging musicians, who killed the engines in their vans, not sure when they might need them again.

Drummer Anthony Taddeo performs with Italian folk group Alla Boara, jazz group AlbaTrio, Appalachian revivalists Hey Mavis and vocalist Helen Welch.
“The last show I played was in Alabama with Helen Welch,” he says. “I felt like the last gigging musician in the world that day.”

Lauren Hillary Voss’s last show before lockdown was on March 9, 2020, at the Beachland with post-industrial doomgazers Arms & Armour.
“I remember we were all nervous ‘cause the other bands were from Europe and everyone was like, ‘Should we be shaking hands and stuff?’” she says. “It was pretty weird, though we had no idea how surreal everything was about to get.”

Then, things then got quiet. As venues scrambled to stay afloat, musicians had to redirect their creativity to find new ways of connecting with other players and fans. Online experimentation flourished, and the desire musicians had to connect with audiences was palpable.

“I found a lot of inspiration in the Instagram community that deals with electronics and synthesizers,” says Taddeo. “It was such a great sounding board for my many experiments.”

“There were a lot of online musical fests and forums,” says Voss. “It gave my project more opportunities to play ‘out of town’ than I would have had since I had just had a baby.”

Ed Sotelo, bassist with Hello!3D, Jack Fords, Brent Kirby and the New Lou Reeds, kept his nose to the grindstone. “There were demos and some remote recording during the early part of the pandemic, but barring that, my teaching work forced me to exercise some degree of creativity,” he says. “I missed meeting old friends, making new ones.”

The sigh of relief as venues began to reopen was like the Shot Heard Round the World. Musicians and fans alike will tell you nothing beats a live show.

Last month, Arms & Armor performed an unofficial EP release with Oregon Space Trail of Doom at the Happy Dog.

“That happened to be one of the most well-attended shows we have played to date,” says Voss. “It sold out and was relatively packed. The vibe was incredible — a fully engaged audience of people who all wanted to be there at that particular show to see that particular line up, and it was awesome.”

In May, Sotelo plugged back in with Brent Kirby at Forest City Brewery.
“Me and the guys in the group — it's a quartet — all had our shots,” he says. “It was an outdoor setup, and since Forest City's back patio is quite large, social distancing was relatively easy. To purchase a beer from the indoor bar, one had to wear a mask . . . serious music fans are willing to undergo restrictions to insure the safety of all involved in the performances.”

“It feels a little weird still,” says Taddeo. “You can still feel a slight hesitancy or uneasiness in the room, but once things get going everyone loosens up and then you feel the overwhelming amount of joy that the audience has to be witnessing music in person again.”

Davis performed on July 1 at the Winchester and cherished the moment. “It was very well-attended,” he says. “The vibe was up-tempo, dancy, bright and dark, loud and beautiful.”

Has the pandemic offered musicians a new perspective moving forward?
“In ways it was maddening, but I feel that it has given us a much-needed pause to reflect about what we are doing and why we are doing it,” says Taddeo.

Voss is more succinct. “Um, it sucked. Let's not do that again. Get your vaccine.”

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Antica Brings Contemporary Italian Food to the MarketPlace at Avon

Posted By on Thu, Jul 29, 2021 at 10:21 AM

Frutti di Mare from Antica in Avon. - COURTESY FADI DAOUD
  • Courtesy Fadi Daoud
  • Frutti di Mare from Antica in Avon.
Cafe Piccolo, a popular Italian restaurant in Avon, closed its doors after three years at the start of the pandemic. Another business, Flair 22, announced plans soon after to take the space over but never made it to opening day. In January, Heck’s owner Fadi Daoud signed the lease and spent the next six months updating the space in advance of opening Antica Italian Kitchen (35568 Detroit Rd., 440-517-0096), which he did in mid-July.

“It’s completely changed,” Daoud says of the interior. “We wanted to give it a different look to match the concept. It was very heavy and classic but now it’s more open and comfortable.”

Daoud, who owns Heck’s in Ohio City as well as a second Heck’s in the very same shopping center, says he likes the location because of its anti-chain stance.

“I feel like people crave for a new space, especially in the Avon area,” he says. “Where we are, it’s heavy on chains. The center we are in is a mostly local collection. It’s one of the only centers in Avon that’s all local.”

Now, sitting alongside the likes of Heck’s, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Kelsey Elizabeth Cakes and Melt is Antica. Daoud recruited chef Josh Septoski from Chicago, where he worked as an Italian cooking instructor at Eataly. The menu is described as “classic Italian with a modern take.”

“Simplicity is key, just really, relly good ingredients, most of which are imported except for the local stuff,” adds Daoud.

To start, there’s arancini, fritto misto, burrata with grilled focaccia, Kobe beef meatballs, and tuna crudo with olive oil, orange and red pepper flakes. Soups and salad choices include pasta fagioli, caprese and Tuscan kale with shaved brussels. The pasta section is flushed out with classics like spaghetti pomodoro, frutti di mare, gnocchi with pesto cream and rigatoni carbonara. For the main event, there’s whole roasted branzino, grilled Ohio lamb chops, grilled salmon and veal saltimbocca. All of those choices are joined by creative pizzas, seasonal vegetables and a few classic desserts.

Daoud says that Antica is off to a great start and that Heck’s, which he purchased more than 15 years ago, is navigating these turbulent times as well.

“Heck’s at both locations are doing great,” he says. “We had to figure out what needs to be done, what needs to be changed on the fly when the shutdown happened. When we opened back up it’s been a good ride so far. Just keeping it up to date, approachable, comfortable. I feel like that’s what people are looking for now more than ever.”

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20 Things To Do in Cleveland This Weekend (July 29-Aug. 1)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 29, 2021 at 10:00 AM

Singer-songwriter Anne E. DeChant. - ANNEEDECHANT.COM
  • Singer-songwriter Anne E. DeChant.
Our weekly picks of the best things to do in Cleveland this weekend. Also check out our full Cleveland event calendar.

THU 07/29

Anne E. DeChant

A 2020 Kerrville Folk Festival Songwriting Competition Finalist who's performed with Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Don Henry, Travis Meadows and Livingston Taylor, Anne E. DeChant began her career as the dynamic lead singer of Cleveland's Odd Girl Out. She's since become a successful solo act and released her first best of record, Every Little Everything, in November of 2020. She performs tonight at 8 at Cain Park. Consult the Cain Park website for ticket prices and more info.
14591 Superior Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-371-3000,

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Migrant Worker Group Helps Vaccinate an Ohio Community

Posted By on Thu, Jul 29, 2021 at 9:58 AM

Vaccine outreach efforts continue in migrant communities - FLOC
  • FLOC
  • Vaccine outreach efforts continue in migrant communities

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jessica Molina of Perrysburg says she was inspired as a child by the spirit of activism, as she watched her parents participate in rallies and protests advocating for the rights of farm workers. Now, as the principal of the only bilingual elementary school in Toledo, Escuela Smart Academy, Molina volunteers with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee on youth programs.

Most recently, Molina has helped FLOC with COVID-19 vaccination efforts, even opening the doors of the school to provide more space for their clinic.

"It was important for them to make sure that their members had front-row seats to getting the vaccine - which really, they did, because FLOC's clinic was up and running just like the major hospitals," she said. "So, I think it was crucial to for them to show their members they have their back."

For their contributions to helping migrant farm workers, Molina and her parents recently attended a White House celebration of front-line health-care workers and volunteers.

FLOC's work resulted in more than 6,000 people being vaccinated at the south Toledo clinic, with an 89% return rate for the second dose. Molina noted that the clinics were open to anyone in need of the vaccine.

"The clinic was available on the weekends, in the evenings," she said. "We even had a 'vaccine-a-thon,' where we were offering vaccines for 42 hours straight, from sunup until sundown. So, it was a really productive clinic."

Molina said she believes FLOC has set an example of what it means to serve the community in times of crisis.

"They maximized their relationships and their partnerships with other organizations to refocus their work on battling the pandemic," she said. "Fighting COVID isn't a part of their mission statement, but helping the community is."

With such a large percentage of the community now vaccinated, Molina said the school is no longer needed as a clinic site. However, she noted that FLOC continues to connect workers at various migrant farms to health-care services.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CDC Again Recommends That Everyone Mask Up Indoors in High-Transmission Areas — Even If You're Vaccinated

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 4:03 PM

Masks are back thanks to the delta variant, and the unvaccinated - MARYLAND NATIONAL GUARD/FLICKRCC
  • Maryland National Guard/FlickrCC
  • Masks are back thanks to the delta variant, and the unvaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over — and residents within the United States should take immediate measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The best way to do that? Vaccination, experts say.

During a special address on Tuesday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned that the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus has been dominating COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks and beyond. And though the current authorized vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson help lessen the severity of the virus, they can't stop it completely, she warned.

The Delta variant carries a viral load 1,000-times higher than the original virus — called Alpha — does, making it 2.5-times easier to transmit among people, Walensky said.

Additionally, new data shows that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who are infected carry the same high levels of the virus; that means that even though a vaccinated person may not become hospitalized like an unvaccinated person likely would, they still could share the virus with others who are not protected. She said this is a grave concern in areas with low vaccination rates.

"Unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn't believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with a Delta variant," Walensky said.

Walensky said that the virus could mutate further and become even more infectious, adding that the country's overall low vaccination rates enabled the Delta variant in the first place.

"This could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage in this country," she said.

No vaccine is 100% effective, but according to Yale University, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines are about 95%, 94% and 72% effective, respectively. Experts say that the vaccines largely lessen the effects of COVID-19 and its variants, including Delta.

Walensky said that the CDC now is recommending that all individuals resume wearing face masks indoors and in crowds if they're in regions of high transmission — and that goes for vaccinated individuals too. Walensky stressed that because of Delta's high transmissibility, it's much easier to infect people who can't be vaccinated at this time, such as children under age 12 or immunocompromised people.

"We're seeing now that it's actually possible if you're a rare breakthrough infection that you can transmit further, which is the reason for the change," Walensky said.

Walensky also said the CDC recommends masking for all students and employees in schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

"CDC recommends localities encourage universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status," the CDC's new guidance says. "Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies are in place."

In May, the CDC had advised that vaccinated individuals no longer needed to mask up but unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing and consider vaccination. New data has changed that.

"We're not changing the science," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, told CNN Tuesday night. "The virus changed, and the science evolved with the changing virus."

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West Side Councilman Literally Out Here Putting Steering Wheel Locks on Basketball Hoops Because of 'Basketball, Gambling and Guns'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 3:56 PM

Councilman Brian Kazy - FOX 8 SCREENSHOT
  • Fox 8 Screenshot
  • Councilman Brian Kazy

Ward 16 city councilman Brian Kazy has literally put steering wheel locks on the basketball hoops at Jefferson Park (Lorain Avenue and W. 133rd), so distraught is he over the tripartite scourge of basketball, gambling and guns.

"I have a problem with people playing basketball, gambling and carrying guns," Kazy told Ed Gallek from the Fox 8 I-Team

He said he didn't want the hoops to be closed down permanently, but he considered the steering wheel locks a temporary fix until the "root of the problem" could be determined.

The problem, as Kazy outlined it, is that crowds of people sometimes gather at the courts. They sometimes gamble. They sometimes smoke weed. On Monday night, the problem exploded: A shooting took the life of one man and injured two others. It followed a violent weekend in Cleveland, the latest in a grim 2021 series, during which there were at least nine incidents of gun violence.

The Jefferson Park incident occurred near the basketball courts, but there's no indication that basketball itself, or gambling for that matter, was to blame. From the report:

"Witnesses told investigators that two unknown men arrived at the park in a vehicle, approached the victims on foot and started shooting. The two men got back in the vehicle and left the neighborhood, police said." 

In that case, Kazy might be better off banning vehicles than banning basketball, but his response follows a pattern. It's identical, in fact, to the city of Lakewood's, which took down basketball hoops at Madison Park after a shooting there in April. The hoops were put back up two weeks later after resident outcry.

"Basketball courts do not cause gun violence," wrote a resident in a letter to the editor in The Plain Dealer. "Guns cause gun violence. The city’s response to close only these courts sends a very clear message: Keep “others” out, so long as we are protected."

That message has been sent in communities across the country, where basketball courts and hoops tend to be removed as neighborhoods become whiter and wealthier. A recent report on the topic found that in Chicago, over the last decade, 16 basketball courts and 42 backboards have been removed from city parks, and that the neighborhoods where they have come down have also experienced the highest increases in property values since 2000. 

Kazy's actions might have made more sense as political theater, a stunt to endear himself to Ward 16 voters in an election year. But Kazy is running unopposed in 2021. His actions are merely the default response, which emerges from the assumption that Black people hanging out in groups is by definition a problem. 

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Ken Johnson Suspension Appeal Denied, on Trial in Akron, Still Running in Ward 4

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 11:59 AM

  • Photo courtesy of Cleveland City Council
  • Ken Johnson

Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson, who is currently on trial in Akron for a slew of theft-in-office charges, will remain suspended from his council seat. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Johnson's appeal Friday after he failed to timely submit a merit brief which was due earlier in the week.

After Johnson was indicted in February — more than two years after's Mark Naymik published an exhaustive series on Johnson's alleged malfeasance — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called for his suspension from council. A panel of retired justices appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court agreed.

"These numerous felony charges against Mr. Johnson go to the very nature of his elected position," the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. "They directly relate to Mr. Johnson’s service in public office and the authority he has in that office, and they allege abuse of that trusted position."

Johnson appealed, but in the meantime, Cuyahoga County Probate Court Judge Anthony Russo appointed Marion Anita Gardner to serve as interim councilperson in Ward 4. Russo selected Gardner, in part, he said, because she did not intend to run for the seat this fall.

"Ms. Gardner stood out during the interview process for her advocacy and dedication to the residents of Ward 4," Russo wrote. "Ms. Gardner ... has worked tirelessly to address the issues of housing, childcare, transportation, job training, health care, and more for the residents of Ward 4. She has been a vocal advocate for the community and will continue to use her knowledge and experience to best serve the residents as the interim Councilperson."

There are currently 12 candidates for city council in Ward 4, and Ken Johnson is among them. The primary elections are Sept. 14. Johnson would be unable to serve if convicted of the federal charges against him.

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