The Western Ohio Burger Tour 2011

I was tempted to make either passports or merit badges for the inaugural Western Ohio Burger Tour. For this trip, which we completed in less than 8 hours, I suggested eating four regional burger champs. That may have proved to be too much by the end of the day, but we persevered and made it home safe and bloated. Again, inspired by Motz’s Hamburger USA trek, I knew one could experience an enriching staycation just visiting the burger meccas that lie along Interstate 75 in Western Ohio. The fourth burger (more in a future post) was a delightful detour off the beaten path. So for this post, we’ll stick with the first three, mostly for their aesthetic similarities.

 The first three all fit a common theme. They all sat a mile or two from I-75 (an artery of the rust belt and half of America’s crossroads, along with I-70). They all started (we hit the original locations) in the county seat, at the absolute center of town, usually adjacent the courthouse. They were all emblematic of small town America, cultural institutions embedded in the fabric of these communities. They all have their men’s rooms situated on the outside of the restaurant (anyone know the reason for this?) There’s a reason they’ve all survived and stood the test of time – they provide a wholesome regional identity with their product and a tangible link to the past. It’s something that goes beyond nostalgia -- each place is a living, breathing, reminder. Between Wilson’s, Kewpee, and The Spot, who has claim to the best burger and the best place in which to enjoy that burger?

Atmosphere: I’m probably in the minority here, but I felt Findlay, Ohio had a bit too much of a Pleasantville feel to it. Giant houses lined Main St. all draped in jingo-Americana, some even had massive dollhouses of those house in the grand windows. I thought this was the rust belt, but you wouldn’t know it cruising into downtown. The location was almost too clean, too polished, to indicative of small town America. Almost as if it was forced. Surrounded by windows were orange stools surrounding an open kitchen and typical burger joint counter – all too typical. I suppose that’s my only argument of Wilson’s. Everything seemed quaint enough, but something seemed awry. I just can’t put my finger on it.


Burger: Rumor has it that Wilson’s became Wilson’s because Wilson didn’t want to purchase a Kewpee franchise. So he tweaked the recipe (using mayo instead of Miracle Whip) and opened his Sandwich Shop. It’s still hard to mess with Wilson’s variation on what we’ve found to be the standard Ohio square hamburg (look to your nearest Wendy’s). It’s nothing fancy – the burger, with “everything,” includes tomato, onion, lettuce, a slice of American cheese, off a flattop grill. Perfection, really.


Hype: I can put my finger on that something that seemed awry. They were awfully suspect of strangers and the insider’s guide to ordering a Wilson’s burger killed our initial buzz for Wilson’s. It’s uppity in a way – and didn’t have the underdog status vs. Kewpee that one would think. All of that said, the burger is more than worth your visit, if only to say you’ve tried both for comparison.


Atmosphere: What we loved about Lima is how it was the antithesis of Findlay. The city was pretty gnar/gnar and has seen much better days. Kooler’s, which looked like the most happening abandoned train station turned bar, had long closed up, but three Kewpee’s outposts (including the original downtown location) remain as thriving businesses. And though that downtown was grimy and plain, half shut-down, there was a bustling line through the drive-in at the tiny diner. It had the essential qualities of an old-school burger joint (perhaps because it defined those qualities) and nothing has changed – lots of chrome and kitsch, an impeccable logo/mascot, a compact, steaming, visible kitchen, swinging doors, huge malts, and a staff that was equally accommodating and aging. Priceless. 


Burger: Maybe it was the character of the place, but it was the best food on our trip. Maybe it was the tang of the Miracle Whip that gave the burger a distinct sweeter flavor? Kewpee was the first to use the flat bun, the first to offer the “deluxe” burger (wit’ tomato, lettuce, onions, cheese), and it shows. The “mity nice hamburger” which “caters to all folks” is the blueprint for burgers across the Midwest.


Hype: The chain originated in Flint, Michigan in 1923 and has longed been known to serve as the inspiration for Dave Thomas’ Wendy’s burger. Eventually the franchise moved headquarters to Lima – and now this location is the longest still in operation. You want more firsts? Kewpee founder Samuel V. Bair was also the first to introduce curbside service, which eventually morphed into the modern day drive-thru. So pairing the food with such history – this is the real Ohio burger experience and well worth your time. 


Atmosphere: Though once a chain to serve Shelby and Miami County, the Sidney Spot (previously known as the Spot to Eat) is the only remaining location. It’s been there, at a picturesque corner of downtown Sidney, in one form or another, since 1907. That’s a testament to the brand, the loyalty of Sidney’s citizens, and the durability of a good burger. Though the Spot might be untouched, the excessive displays of nostalgia and ‘50s kitsch and diner-red-leather booths and neon, might have taken from the taste, the experience.


Burger: Still, this was the third stop the day. We needed coffee and walk about the square to keep off the sweats. Cleansed, we tried our best to comply and be objective. The Spot burger is a variation on another classic of the Ohio burger world – namely the Big Boy double decker. There was a “special sauce” (tartar, relish, mayo) and a poppyseed bun sandwiching a somewhat bland thin patty. I certainly prefer Frisch’s. The Spot’s only saving grace on the day was the sheer variety of their diner essentials menu.


Hype: Sidney had the nicest of the three historic downtown districts. We could’ve spent the day just exploring those few blocks. But even that is not worth the trouble to pull off the highway to frequent the Spot when there’s a Kewpee a mere 15 minutes away.



Perfume - "Spice"

It figures the day I'm finished typing up my Year End List, Japan's Perfume swoops in with their latest single, "Spice," and lifts me to pop heaven. Two days later and I've probably listened to this song 300 times. Seriously. It's why here at W.O.W. love the plasticity and sheer future-forward sonics of Britney Spears, Tove Styrke,HyunA and to a lesser extent, even Ke$ha and Rihanna. Perfume have been at the J-Pop game for a spell, but JPN, their first album in four years, has simply come out of nowhere and raised the bar in the pop park. Autotuned, maximal, brimming with 8-bit bleeps and candy-coated arpeggios -- this is something you need to hear in surround, in widescreen, everything ping-ponging around the room. Being stuck in a pachinko machine. I think I've used that analogy before, but it's most fitting here. Maybe it's the cold war between with K-Pop that has raised Perfume to this entirely new level?



Dwarr for All Mankind

Not Gwar. Duane Warr came long before. One look at the album covers for Starting Over and Animals, the man's 1984 and 1986 homespun masterpieces, and you think you know what you're getting into. That's not the case. Dwarr is the origin of trailer-psych metal -- proto-before-proto, but still huffing the ashes of the earliest Black Sabbath. My Agit-Interview with Warr is perhaps one of the most enlightening of my career as a music journalist/hack. Wonderful stuff. I promised the man I'd make sure everyone saw his excellent videos as well.

Here's Are You Real?, my personal favorite:


The Glenn Braggs Appreciation Thread

I have theories as to why I consider Glenn Braggs my baseball-playing alter-ego. I have lots of remembrances of that 1990 Reds World Series team. Larkin, Davis, Rijo, the Nasty Boys, Sabo’s goggles, Billy “Pop-Up Heard Round the World” Hatcher. But I always find my favorites in the utility players (hence my love of Miguel Cairo, Willy Mo Pena, Ryan Freel) and the forgotten intangibles that made them such a fun team to root for that summer and beyond. Glenn Braggs, for many reasons, was my favorite Red that year. He had a monstrous physique, a contagious smile, a built-in name suited for the ultimate ’88 emcee, and the propensity to break bats over his knee, or, on occasion, in mid-swing. Braggs was infinitely likeable, a power-outfielder who worked hard to keep that status despite a .257 career average. Maybe he never had the chance, the ABs to prove them wrong. For his 7 seasons in the majors he played a small role for both the Brewers, who first drafted him, and my beloved Reds (to whom he pledges his allegiance).

And just like Braggs was an integral cog in the (new) Big Red Machine, his life is full of intangibles that make him even more an intriguing personality. He went on to play for the Yokohoma BayStars until 1997, married Cindy Herron of En Vogue, and continues to work his way into the Cincinnati organization. He probably even kicks it with Charlie Sheen now and then, though as far as I can glean he’s not named in the Mitchell Report for steroid use. A true star of the Bo Jackson Shoebox era. Even his Starting Line-Up is rare.

Behold...The Year of Hibernation

Talk about a record that completely flew under my radar. When Youth Lagoon first appeared I mistakenly passed it off as another record using twee as entry into the world of indie rock. Too many bands these days use Young Marble Giants as their first source of influence, but rarely, if ever, make good on that claim. This debut from Boise, Idaho's Trevor Powers is perhaps the closest approximation of that band's tiny sound. I'm having trouble finding any correlation between this record and the comparisons he has gained -- Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips. The Year of Hibernation is something completely different. These songs take a more than just a moment, or a double listen, to sink in and under the skin. Power's has tiny ambitions and big implosions, blasts of color that appear far in the distance. These are huge, hook-filled pop songs that come whispered instead of shouted. The record is almost insufferably quiet and barely registers, requiring even more of an ear to enter this insular and warm glowing atmosphere presented by Powers. Because of this, you have to find your own structure in the guy's out-there existentialism. Chronic anxiety and a hard-luck break-up are said to have shaped Power's music -- and you can hear it -- he's a man with a strong knack for pop, but hides it in the folds. The Year of Hibernation is sure to make it into my best of 2011 list. Believe it.


Unfinished Rainbows' First Voyage

A few Sunday's back, there were possibly ten people (at most) milling around my favorite new bar in Columbus, Double Happiness, waiting around for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets to play their cheery-yet-ragged psych-pop and Sundown to get Americana-kosmiche. Surveillance footage managed to catch a glimpse of Unfinished Rainbows (playing to about 3) droning to the max. UR is Matt Horseshit's multi-purpose psych-unit-destroyer. For 20 minutes or so he took us into the world that probably only gets played through headphones late at night. This is not anything resembling his other band -- it's a trip for several movements, spliced with samples, and soon lurching with death-sized beats. Sick. Be on the lookout for more Unfinished Rainbows performances, including one coming up in December with Radio People and NYC's Forma.

Black Bug Welcome You To the Machine

Keeping up the the Hozac's is a nearly a full-time job -- and being that I have a few other jobs to fulfill on a daily basis, I mistakenly tuned out the label for much of the second half of this year. Besides the excellent Fungi Girls debut LP, I couldn't really tell you what's going on up in Chicago. The singles club still functions, the releases come at a rapid clip, and as a result a lot of great things there get lost in the shuffle. One such single comes from Sweden's Black Bug. Their Police Helicopters EP is one of those occasions for the label to delve into the gnarliest, darkest corners of cold wave. This is as black as they come. It's perfectly reminiscent of the Human League before they became "Human" with possibly a splash of Napalm Death -- if only for that bands hyper-blasts. The drum machines here are cranked to that setting, and left on auto-pilot. Throughout there are space-punk sci-fi shouts (think 1984) battling with the droid overlords. The synths keep up, speeding to a colorful paranoia. One has the feeling that as automaton as Black Bug sounds they could certainly conjure some hooks from those machines. Like an 8-bit Cramps or Suicide plopped into the middle of one of those endless Metroid dungeons. This is decrepit, scummy, vile, noise terrorism quite worthy of the three or four minutes you'll spend with the duo. Not sure I could handle this as a full-length (maybe if they kept it under 15 minutes?)

 Here's a vid for the single's title track:



Iceage and the New Brigade

Back in the midst of Summer, when IceAge (read up by hitting my interview with them back in May) rolled into the Carabar, there were a lot of naysayers shunning their brief, but pummeling 20 odd minute set. Maybe it was the buzz that was rolling behind them, liable to swallow the young Danish punks before they got the chance to head back home. Sure they weren't all that personable on stage, stormed off in an apparent fit, and blasted through their songs without much room to breath and/or acknowledge/fix the sound and/or deal with the technical issues - but that's their speed. I doubt their first whirlwind tour through the states involved much sleep and/or health and/or comfort and/or privacy judging by the way they were received their first NYC show back in June (saw that one too). I helped them haul their gear up two flights of steps and into a crust-punk palace, where no one was having it, but they ended up destroying those Bushwick kids nonetheless.

It's getting time to start listing off the albums of the year -- and I'm revisiting this debut over and over. It's certainly a top 5 record. And anyone who disagrees might just be too old. I firmly believe this record has the same weight as a number of other punk landmarks -- Wire's Pink Flag, the Refused's Shape of Punk to Come, Minor Threat, Discharge, Warsaw -- and any rebellious teen who puts this on will have their minds blown, subsequently scrawling the quartet's logo onto their Trapper Keepers.

All in all they are pretty kind, unassuming dudes. They know how to attack when it matters. Melodies abound atop a great approximation of '10s hardcore. Can't wait to hear what's next.

Here's the band's first video for New Brigade's title track:

Live in Columbus, Ohio. Taped by the infamous Mike Sperry.


R I M A R Reveals Himself

I guess we call this the arrival. With the once free debut digital album from Brooklyn's Rimar now coming in the vinyl format on Bella Union Records -- it was only a matter of time before the elusive beat-maker/popsmith revealed himself via this video for Higher Ground's title track. Here he rocks the rooftops of two boroughs and dances awkwardly like a b-boy who has just decided to rule the world. It's blissfully hazy and a perfect introduction to the man. Though I've already put into words an introduction to the man over at Agit-Reader.

Go buy his record. Cheer him on. I have a feeling he'll be backing numerous up-r-coming young emcess in the coming months -- aside from making a more profound second record.

Chili Quest Finale: Blue Ash

For the longest time and for some unbeknownst reason whilst organizing the Cincinnati Chili Quest, I had thought Blue Ash Chili was a copycat, or recently built parlor styled to authenticate the Cincinnati Chili Experience. I had no idea, until finally visiting the quiet Northern burb, that Blue Ash was an original, or at least since 1969 -- a long time for a small scale chili parlor to survive. I suppose it was just the assumption that Blue Ash was an affluent hood outside the ranks of the river living communities near downtown and over the river.

We were on our way to the best seats ever at the Paul McCartney concert at Great American Ballpark (my highest ranking experience there all year, didn't see the Reds win once this season) so it only seemed logical to stop and finish the tour (unless you can steer me towards an "open" Empress franchise?). I must say. It was perfect. In many respects I can rank this among Price Hill as the place for authentic Cincinnati Chili. It might even have a slight advantage -- the addition of fried jalapenos.

Then again, there wasn't much Cincy pride memorabilia dotting the walls or a lore surrounding the place. It's also in Blue Ash -- which is somewhat of a hike, and has somewhat become that affluent escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Perhaps another point for Blue Ash come to think of it.

 Is the Quest over? You tell me.

We Interrupt this Blog...for some Unholy Two GIFS

This was taken at the first annual MegaCity Music Marathon back in September. Unholy Two destroyed that night. (hint, hint -- mark your calendars for next year's Marathon -- Saturday, June 9th). Now is a long time from then, so I'm taking this opporutnity -- and giving you a double shot of the UH2 -- to let you know to expect some (more) regular posts aboard here. Lots of fall/winter goodies in store. 

James Ferraro's FACT Mix

Funny. Just picked up a Glenn Jones album for $1 the other day. You can't go wrong with "If It Isn't Love" by New Edition in the autumn. Sounds like Ferraro is on exactly my same wavelength. All I ever want to make for you to consume here, sounds like a clear TDX mixtape full of forgotten 92.1 slow jams and new jack, melted beyond any reason of familiarity, and re-cut for an age when we'll need cassettes like this again. I can't vouch for the Teletubbies/Starbucks designed clarity of Ferraro's new Far Side Virtual (I much prefer the older stuff), but this mix has latest for weeks now.

  Go Here to Experience the Magic....

Me Phi Me...Too Smart for His Thyme

My sudden interest in Me Phi Me came directly from this article from the AV Club regarding novelty hip-hop bands (mostly from the ‘90s, the era of most Bo Jackson entries) – many of these novelty acts were purchased and neatly tucked away in the shoebox. The shocking thing is that back then, when a teenager’s music catalogue was limited to FM radio and a shoebox, I would listen to many of these tapes from front to back repeatedly. Imagine trying your best to listen to Candyman’s debut repeatedly – that may or may not attribute to my onset adult ADD or blurry judgment when it comes to my perception of hip-hop nostalgia. Maybe it was basic training, played out on Justin Smith’s mammoth boombox (it was 3 feet high and rising, I was infinitely jealous of it)? Regardless, I hold a soft-spot in my heart for the first time I heard Me Phi Me’s “Sad New Day.” Blame it on De La Soul initially – the flower children of the Native Tongue era – or P.M. Dawn’s daisy romantics, or how much I appreciated Arrested Development’s entry into thinking man’s rap-pop (“Tennessee” has stood the test of time).

I think it was more my eventual transition to ditch the Starter hats and jackets and assimilating into an aesthetic of “alternativeness.” Classics, Punk, and Metal (all teenage touchstones) had been a part of me for some time, but somewhere between 9th and 10th grade it all changed. I was fully acceptant of folkies and poetry geeks, vegans and revolutionaries, French New Wave and Public Enemy-esque anti-politics (forcing me to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X at a very young age). So Me Phi Me’s adherence to an individual spirit was magnetic. Seriously, no one in hip-hop was using smooth jazz pioneer Michael Franks in their recordings (though the guy is almost directly responsible for over 75% of chillwave) and no one was referring to themselves as a “fraternity of one.” The existential “sun brotherhood” is the overriding concept of Me Phi Me’s One, his debut in 1992 -- there are more than a few full-fledged chants for this fraternity all over the album – and by the time you make it through the whole record (I can guarantee you won’t) you’ll have a sense of the direct inspiration of Me Phi Me’s left-field curveball here. It stems from the escalation of an artist like Tracy Chapman or the aforementioned paisley coalition.

Meditate at your own risk.


When Nash Were Young


In remembering 84 Nash...trying to piece together the best possible setlist to represent what we did for 10+ years, has been a great chore in the last few weeks since deciding we'll be getting back together. For one show at least. Well, in digging, Andy found this, well-known (at least by three of us) leftover from the Band For Hire sessions. "Sirens Going Steady." I, for one, am extremely excited to shake off the rust, because, just not for nostalgia's sake, I know there's plethora of songs like this sitting dormant that you all (who remain interested) need to hear. And for those who aren't in the know, I honestly feel there's an album worth of "quality" and "innovation" and simply pure "Nash Pop" that has yet to be discovered. Believe it. This is just a taste. It's a little quiet, but I suppose that's just lo-fi (or that it's culled from the original demo cassette of Band For Hire).

84 Nash - Sirens Going Steady

Visiting the Hoosier's Gym

After the Columbus, Indiana post, there's little much else to post except for this nugget. Adam, the biggest fan of the film Hoosier's I know (besides my father) was sleeping after our exhausting day in the "Athens of the Prairies" in the back-seat. I surprised him by pulling up next to the gym where that movie, at least the baseketball scenes, were filmed. Thanks to our fearless guide, Merve, we learned that the Hoosier's Gym has become a staple in b-ball lore. Many a Indiana High School tournament played there, many an interview between legends (Magic, Bird, Enemy 'Bron, 'Melo), many a reunion of former cast members, has occurred in the tiny gym of Knightstown. Well worth our 20 minute detour. I once imagined putting a blindfold on my dad and driving him all the way here for a birthday. He's the inspiration.

Jhene Aiko and the Sailing Soul(s) Crush

Jhene Aiko? So I dismissed any urge to download Aiko’s summer mixtape simply based on the cover (something you learn not to do in school, right?). I thought she looked like a second-class Beyonce or Rhianna, treading R&B waters, just trying to make a name via hipster R&B mixtapes. Can’t fault a girl from trying, especially in a dog-eat-dog world full of producers trying to meddle with various ingĂ©nues/wannabe-divas for the end result – just one hit. I must be blind to certain trends at this point, as I can’t identify (besides Drake’s “Marvin’s Room”) where Aiko is lamping over others’ creations/beats. I was introduced with “Snapped,” seen in the amazing Ah-Ha/Akira inspired vid below, which by all accounts is a Jhene Aiko exclusive.

As I was spewing out the virtues of Britney Spears’ recent Columbus show (review/or sort of review forthcoming), a good friend of mine asked how I decide on which parts of the plastic pop universe I choose to adore (since there’s so much). He wasn’t questioning my love for this ilk of sophisto-mainstream pop (he understands the general nostalgia), but just why I chose Britney over another. Or Beyonce over Rhianna (which I do). Or for that matter why Jewel’s “Intuition” is much superior to any other contemporary artist, in her predicament, who attempted to tap into that Top 40 realm down that alley. And for all those questions, I didn’t have an answer. It’s not a guilty pleasure, as there’s no such thing. Femme Fatale, Britney Spears latest masterpiece (yes, masterpiece) is not a guilty listen. It’s one I genuinely enjoy on many levels for its future-forward approach to pop and how it posits the star. Anyone who thinks Britney Spears continues upon a downward slope is definitely not listening to the music. It’s not her creation, fer sure, but the money and ingenuity attached to her persona is enough. I wish these behind-the-scenes wizards took more chances. Then, of course, a legitimate artist (?) like Jhene Aiko, or Sky Ferreira, or Nicki Minaj, would be in the running for this stable of production ohhhs and ahhhs. Instead, I suppose they all fight the good fight, against the Britney’s and the Beyonce’s of in their horizon. I’m sure some of them will prevail. I haven’t yet even tipped the iceberg of Tove Styrke (jeez, just wait). There is assurance, that much like her counter – let’s plug in the wonderful Cassie right now, Jhene Aiko has a bright, but predictably, unpredictable future ahead of her.

It was early morning, this week, playing this loud, that I was assured of Aiko's power.Go Here for the Mixtape.

Burger Tour 2011: Johnnie's Tavern

Johnnie’s Tavern sits out on an edge of Columbus known as San Margherita. I suppose that’s why John included the “h” when he stretched his name and loaned it to his tavern in 1948. I don’t think this neighborhood has ever been much, hence the need for a tavern like Johnnie’s. Supposedly San Margherita is on the way to no longer being independent of the city – so this highly industrial, haven for massive faux-luxury apartment complexes, directly east of proper Hilliard, will eventually be sucked into Columbus. Then can we call Johnnie’s our own? I’ve driven this stretch of the city many times before. Maybe because I had a friend who used to allow us to jump into the reservoir in the middle of his faux-luxury complex back in the day, or maybe because the UPS hub was the only place to pick up your UPS shipped items? Granted, I’d been here before. Not Johnnie’s, but in a mindset that reflects the rough and worn environs of Johnnie’s. The Super Johnnie Burger was on the Burger GPS, so this was a little bit cheating, but also exploration. You have to drive to get what is now (sorry Thurman’s, size doesn’t matter) my favorite burger in Columbus. But that isn’t saying much, because while it was good, it doesn’t match the 4 burgers found in Western Ohio (full report coming soon, I promise).

Atmosphere: What can I say? I’m a sucker for the low-rent vibe that pervades Johnnie’s. Of course we were in Columbus but our party was looked at up and down like we just came from the ends of the Earth, or Brooklyn, or something. They only have fried items for food – besides the Super Johnnie – and Michelob on tap (the coldest beer in Columbus?) but it’s extremely cheap (your reward for finding the place) and the service was beyond friendly. One could easily waste an afternoon here and get that “stuck in a Roseanne episode” type of nostalgia. Then again, this arena for drink (and nothing else) can likely be found anywhere along the outskirts of the city.


Burger: Here’s where the points come in. Presentation wise, it was your standard large, single patty, accompanied by lettuce, tomato, onion, American cheese, and mayo on a sesame bun. Who can fuck that up? Apparently diner after diner after dive bar across the country. Everything here seemed built with care – the cheese perfectly melted and delivered (see picture) and the veg fresh. This is a big burger, but was cooked to another level of perfection – a nice medium, and spiced with the slightest amount of black pepper. It was an ingredient that was prominent but didn’t overwhelm and surprised all who took this journey. The pepper flavor is what took the Super Johnnie over the (average) top. There was no special sauce, no novelty condiment, no catch. Just a satisfying burger. And that’s something the Five Guys and Grafitti Burger (and even the Big Boy) do well, but never in this type of memorable way.


Hype: The Super Johnnie is worthy of being on the Motz’s Burger GPS and in his book. As stated (so far) this is the best burger I’ve had in Columbus. And adhering to my atmosphere score, there’s nothing off-putting about a visit there. That said, it’s hard to justify a jaunt down that way, even in the relatively small confines of the Columbus Metropolitan area. It eeks above the rest. And I’ve yet to try the Gahanna Grill, which may become a suitable foe to this West side establishment. It’s quintessentially a neighborhood haunt quite honestly, and going above that seems out of their league. A good burger overall, but not a requirement. I realize that is contradictory to my mission.


Journey to Columbus....Indiana


If you read here regularly you know I somewhat pride myself on being knowledgeable about the nooks and crannies traveling throughout the tri-state region. Be it chili parlors, baseball pit-stops, or generally intriguing tourist traps. This summer, like last summer and likely the one before it (I haven’t been out of the country since Montreal, 2009) has been the season of staycation. I can honestly say my first summer off as an educator has been chocked full of mini-trips, mainly being the reason WOW has kept quiet in these months. I’m catching up. Be on the lookout. But for now I want to purge what was perhaps my best voyage. Little did I know about the hidden gem hidden in Southern Indiana known as the “Athens of the Prairie.” There’s a guy Eugene who frequently is a patron during my bar shifts – he sits alone, reads, eats, and goes out to smoke a lot. Our conversations usually end up leading towards our equal love of seeking out the world’s best architecture. One night in July he couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Columbus, Indiana. So based on what he told me and what I learned on my own (thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia) it soon became a priority destination. A few weeks back, Patti (mom), Adam (bro), and myself made the four hour pilgrimage, about 40 minutes outside of Indianapolis, to discover a community built and designed like no other in Midwest.


Long story short (find it yourself and read it) – the man who made the town, J. Irwin Miller (founder of the Cummins Engine Company), wanted to invest in Columbus to be that community built and designed like no other. So he began to contribute his own funds to the city as long as they chose an architect from his list. First it was a church (pictured above) by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and then it was the bank downtown (pictured below)by his more renowned son, Eero, it boiled over to schools, and the library, city hall, and eventually even the jail. It quickly became a canvas for inventive architects and landscape sculptors.



Just pulling into town you could tell that Columbus had become a magnet for aspiring modern and post-modern architects, and it rubbed off on many of the residents, who you can see all wanted to own a home unique to their peaceful and extremely flat environment. This is of course, not to mention the many examples of classical architecture that already formed the bulk of Columbus before Miller became bent for the future. Miller’s private home, commissioned for Eero to design, is a feat of architecture that is said to parallel Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, just recently opened to the public – and on this day and many days into the future entrance to the home was sold out. But we did get to see what many consider Eero’s masterpiece, the North Christian Church (pictured above, which we dubbed Jesus’ spaceship), finished after the architect had passed. It was the finale of a very informative bus tour through the highlights of Indiana’s architecture. We soon learned though, it’s a walking city, and many of the treasures not found on the tour can be found within a mile radius of the Tourist Center (itself a known piece of architecture.

We certainly didn't see it all. Which will definitely prompt a return visit. But just the chunk we did see was enough to be inspired by American ingenuity. It was a bit Eerie, Indiana, or Pleasantville (visit the century old soda parlor for proof), yet still balanced by a World's Fair (or Tomorrowland) type of vision. And....on your way home you can visit the Hoosier's Gym in Knightstown and the Warm Glow Candle Company, off of I-70. Go there.

Some extra sites:


The Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I.M. Pei.


The aforementioned county jail building.


The local newspaper.


The post office.


The Entrance to Cummins Engine Company HQ.


I suppose this is where you deal with your cable bill.


2011 Dusk of Summer Mix

It's been a long time. I know. I've had this Special Blend i the works for some time -- some of it's even tagged for December. Apologies if you care enough. You can find the last blend, the 2010 Season of Wither Mix -- here. (Right Click to Download)


2011 Dusk of Summer Mix

1. Christine McVie – Got a Hold on Me
2. Greatest Hits – Fun Girls
3. SBTRKT – Wildfire
4. SWV – I’m So Into You
5. Part Time – Cassie (Won’t You Be My Doll)
6. Tove Styrke – High and Low
7. Marcos Valle – Tira A Mao
8. Sleep ∞ Over - Romantic Streams
9. Midnight Television – All Night
10. P.M. Dawn – I’d Die Without You
11. The Sea and Cake – Jackin’ the Ball
12. Twin Sister – Bad Street
13. Melted Toys – Wild Waves
14. Gross Magic – Sweetest Touch
15. Laptin – Livin’ 4
16. Switch – I Call Your Name


(A World of Wumme Production, 2011)

About the Dusk of Summer Mix:

The dusk of summer is something that’s become impossibly difficult to make tangible. Whether you’re 34 or 14 or 8, August in Ohio always has a way of exhaling, as if May through July have been months of sweat, short breaths, and short, exasperating, joy-infused breaths. And that’s with or without traipsing Europe, and that’s with or without the beach or being poolside, even with or without amusement parks and state fair -- as long as you’ve experienced the faint stench of overgrown, unmaintained foliage near an abandoned factory you’ve lived through summer eternal. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (you can’t complain in Ohio) wherever you live, there is always the imprint of summer and the season’s eventual shift. Sundown comes earlier and earlier, as if every passing day is a bittersweet reminder the “fun” is over. You better have your Moon Tower moment this weekend, or next, and if you don’t know what a Moon Tower moment is, cold beers in a lightning bug waning backyard is the moment. Post-Labor Day you’ve gone too far. It is business as usual as sleeves get longer and shorts disappear. Baseball either gets serious or deflates until spring. Browsing through the megastore, you almost want to buy back-to-school supplies just to re-align one’s scruples frazzled from the fever dreams and plastic memories which can accumulate over summer.

This could also be the Staycation Mix – but I’ve had a few summers of Staycations and that seems to be the norm – exploring my surroundings and soaking it all in. No need to cross state lines (though I could include a few trips to the BIG CITY as inspiration in my current design), as it’s really all here. It is. Or within radials of three or four hours NSEW.
Tough to assess where the mix stands in the realm of a three month holiday, but more than anything it reflects THE END, the dusk. There’s the obligatory Twin Sister cut (cause that’s what you’ll be jamming in Autumn) and Switch (recalling the regular theme of late ‘70s/early ‘80s street funk), some Teen Gloss and New Jill Swing, and Fleetwood Mac. The Mac has been a certified staple of summer – even if it’s only Christie McVie. Here’s to, not only the dusk, but also the hidden gems of summer.


Nudge Squidfish Television

Some people in the Harrisburgh Players universe has been very busy lately, accumulating deteriorated VHS cassettes and other decaying media in hopes of preserving it for future generations to "learn" about "what went on." Of course, most of us, who did not survive among the time of the True Believers, have very little visual evidence of these times and their creative tidal-wave -- that's not to say we can't leave it to our imagination through oral legends passed down and those recordings -- and the stuff Nudge Squidfish has posted in a short time onto the mercurial channels of YOUTUBE (SUBSCRIBE) is filled with footage most of us will have never known existed. Among the multiple UFO sightings are music videos from Tommy Jay and Mike Rep, hour-long documentaries on Jim Shepard, full live shows, obscure audio from JayFish and Nudge himself uploaded over some pretty head-shaking imagery. Start watching, and start digging that rabbit hole you're about to retreat into.

Apparently the resurrection and revival of all this is to be celebrated in a much bigger project which you'll hopefully be seeing in an art museum/lonely basement somewhere soon.

Until then....."Tuff Luck Roy" courtesy of Tommy Jay...

Polvo Make a "Heavy Detour"

Living my very impressionable high school/early college years in '90s, it's a given that I'm a sucker for all of this reuniting many of my favorite bands have succumbed to for various reasons --to promote the 10 year re-issue, for the money, for retribution, for the glory. Trust me, there are varying scales of excitement when it comes down to it. From "OMFG the classic Guided By Voices line-up has lost nary a step," to "though I was nonplussed by Pavement, I still knew all the words and sang along with a smile," and down the grade with "there's no fucking way I'm driving to Detroit to see Archers of Loaf." Perhaps my favorite reunited band from those halcyon days is that of Polvo. They could easily be schilling their long underrated records from back then (Merge has re-issued the excellent Celebrate the New Dark Age EP in a deluxe version) but have instead chose to re-ignite the flame and return where they left off, in complete earnest. Their sole purpose is to rock again -- and show that their oddball antics of the past were ahead of their time. Their return was invigorating -- sounding nothing like the Polvo of 1997 (the last we'd heard from them) but yet, just like we left them (as strange as ever). 2009's In Prism was one of my favorite records of that year. It didn't sound like there was even a scrap of rust or regret on it.

And now, two years later, they are back again. We'll have to see what another new album morphs into, but if "Heavy Detour" (the first single) is any indication, it will be another massive left turn for the band. Ash Bowie sings as if he is mortally grizzled (in the best way possible) here, chomping and choogling through some futurized boogie prog. Tambourine on a Polvo record? Yes. They are an American band after all. I hate to bring in Grand Funk here but this is the gnarliest the GFR has ever chugged down the tracks. Add in some serious Wakemen-esque synth arpeggios and I'd be remiss to add Emerson, Lake and Palmer. OK. That last comparison is a bit of a stretch (and a wretch were it not for Tarkus), but I'm trying to make a point. Just listen. They deserve your attention.

Polvo - Heavy Detour by MergeRecords


Burger Tour 2011: Fat Patty's

Fat Patty's 
1935 3rd Ave.
Huntington, West Virginia

Fat Patty's was a must because, well, there wasn't much open in Huntington, West Virginia, on the Fourth of July. Be warned Fat Patty's is on the Burger GPS -- but there is also no review and no guide as to what you should order should you partake. I'll have to say, Fat Patty's should not dissuade you from visit to Huntington. It's a beautiful little city where the river meets the hills, with plenty of character/characters and wonderful hospitality. Next time I fully intend on hitting up Tooter's and avoiding the Marshall campus altogether (if that's possible). And now for the scoring:

Atmosphere - There wasn't much. I do think this place is probably legendary on Marshall Thundering Herd game days. There are plenty of worthless beers on tap and pictures of Heaven's Herd starring at your from all directions. The decor is pure Green and White -- with the typical sports bar woodshed fixtures keeping patrons either claustrophobic or drinking away their misery. This place must have a history (it's right next to the stadium), but I couldn't find much. It's certainly isn't because of the food.


Burger - I was told to order the "famous" Pretzel Burger, which was basically just an average grill burger served on a pretzel bun with bland honey mustard. There was no seasoning to the burger and the novelty of the bun being a pretzel did little to cover that up. I wasn't asked how I wanted my burger cooked, so I'm thinking the standard is medium well, probably to cover up the sub-quality of the taste. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. I definitely ate the massive thing and got home in one piece, but I was ashamed to drag two families down the street for this.


Hype - There was a hype to Fat Patty's. Our hosts had heard many things about it and didn't seem that thrilled with the place either. Still, I was finding plenty of evidence on the internet and the aforementioned Burger GPS that people loved the stuff. It's also a bit off the beaten path unless you are in Huntington with nothing else to do (again, try Tooter's Biscuit World or Hillbilly Hot Dogs), so travelling just for this is out of the question.


Twin Sister In Dreams on Bad Street

When I talked with Twin Sister late last year and subsequently saw them mesmerize the worst venue in Columbus, I had extremely high hopes that their debut would be a perfect mix of progressive soft-rock and neo-roller-rink blip-pop. Of course, most of the buzz orbits around the group's chanteuse Andrea Estrella. For good reason, not only is she a doll, she truly embodies the music that surrounds in her magnetic coo. But the band in tow is equally magic as evidenced our first taste from In Dreams, "Bad Street." It's the perfect evolution beyond the whimsical "Around and Away We Go," showing an increase in electronic arrangements, in songwriting, adding extra limbs and extra ambition that has resulted from an increased maturity -- or possibly freezing with each other in a Long Island studio until suddenly thawing out in the spring. "Bad Street" was made for summer though, and shown in this very cinematic representation of the song, it's a jam for all-day backyard parties, complete with pinatas, grilling out, and sparklers. Who says nostalgia can't sound (and look) this fresh?


Unknown Mortal Orchestra and the R-Future Pop Fetish

It seems there have been plenty of (especially Scandinavian and Australian bands, no stereotype mind you) bands who exist in a time vacuum -- Tame Impala, Dungen, the Hives, Cut Copy, Wolf People -- perpetually unwilling to admit to cribbing New Order or Cream or the New Bomb Turks or Jethro Tull for sonic ignition. But there are few who fully take from it, absolutely accepting that things like the synthetic heartbeats of '90s hip-hop and the dusty psych circus of Sgt. Pepper's could assemble the perfect album. Ruban Nielson, and his Unknown Mortal Orchestra could be mistaken for an offshoot of the Elephant Six (they did allow the British-led Minders into the fold -- and Beulah was from the West Coast, so UMO is plausible) but it's all very future-forward. Compelling in the album's adherence to the rhythm. It wasn't until I interviewed Nielson that I realized it was all constructed of some great riffs and a bevy of samples intricately woven. But we're in a new age -- one where this couldn't have been done on four-track, but doesn't sound a digital nightmare -- and it might just be the first truly psychedelic record that can list Garageband in the thank you credits. That said, it's effervescent pop music. A Retro-Futurist flare-gun shot across the frontier. You can name-check a flurry of groups -- even the Avalanches come to mind -- but it doesn't inhibit Nielson's penchant for a good hook. Hooked for Summer. Easily one of the year's finest. Here's a video.

Burger Tour 2011: Swenson's

Last Summer it was the Cincinnati Chili Quest. And besides missing out on Blue Ash Chili (which I intend to ascend before August is out) – I believe, by your readership that it was a success. So the foodstuffs programming has become a priority for W.O.W. Now? We enter the world of the Mom and Pop Burger Tour. Yes, I admit that much of my ongoing Burger Tour has been wholly inspired by George Motz’s excellent Hamburger America book and the accompanying Hamburger GPS iPhone application, but being from Ohio, I am in a fairly perfect centrality to much of America’s hamburger origin.

I plan to make this Tour much more extensive than the Chili Quest, if only because I intend of venturing outside of the Ohio borders to evaluate the many genre of hamburgs. Therefore, Burger Tour, in direct inspiration from the excellent Pizza Slayer will have a “fair and balanced” metric to determine whether a burger pilgrimage was worth the effort. Though we thought we could just measure the quality of these burgers with “pickles” (Adam’s ideas), here are my determined criteria:

History/Tradition/Current Atmosphere 
(Has it stood the test of time? Does the charm enhance the experience?) 

The Burger 
(How does it taste compared to the myriad American burgers?) 

The Hype
 (Was it worth the trip? Does it hold up to the hype?) 

I fully intend to rank these burgers in a critical light, not unlike albums reviewed on P4K.
So that assumes that the ultimate burger is a perfect 10.0 -- should that be possible among the myriad American burgers. 


658 E. Cuyahoga Falls Avenue
Akron, Ohio

The Hamburger GPS was what initiated by Burger Tour. Driving home from my first trip to New York City this year -- I consulted the application for a place to eat lunch in Akron. I knew by the depth of history, that you can easily just see from the interstate, there would be something worth stopping for in Akron. Little did I know about the wonder of Swenson's.

Though the car-hop motif has been a staple for a very long time -- Swenson's has been serving their double-deckers since 1934 -- and this drive-in has been here for almost 50 years. I imagine nothing has changed. The "servers" literally sprint from car to car, depending on your headlights being on or off, to serve you. It got a little confusing for me because I ordered "to-go" burgers, but they were always grateful and friendly to be doing what they were doing everyday. 


I ordered the Galley Boy. It won a Food Feud on some network a few months back -- and they were certainly correct (though I have yet to have a Skywae). I'm not sure if the Big Boy came before the Galley Boy or not, but they were similar. A special sauce (similar to tartar) on a double decker thin pounded cheeseburger. Everything was assembled to accent concentration of flavor. It was a masterpiece.

Atmosphere -- Though I encountered 4 separate servers within the time I was there, and the delivery was much longer than anticipated, but everyone was friendly, the surroundings were very Akron-centric (worn to a quaint character) and the restaurant looked and operated as if it were an institution in the community for years.


Burger - This is the best double-decker I have ever encountered. Swenson's is setting the bar high for this genre -- and I've been to Frisch's a million times all over the world at this point. The Big Boy is only a memory.


Hype - Swenson's was easily accessible off the interstate. In fact you can face the interstate while you eat from your car if you want. Any trip to Cleveland, Akron, or Canton -- or a travel farther East, should include a stop at the many Swenson's locations in North East Ohio. Though I can probably vouch that the North Akron location is the most authentic (correct me if I'm wrong). Most people I've met from this area agree with the Food Network's assumption that Swenson's tops Skywae in the double decker department. Most people from the area swear by Swenson's. So it was certainly worth the trip and worth the hype. 


Not only am I following the path of the Burger GPS, but I'm taking your suggestions. K's in Troy -- is NOT on the Burger GPS, so that's a perfect example of how Motz is negligent of knowing them all.