Despite the morning rain, which was heavy enough to cause flooding in some areas, I headed out to the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati to visit Shake It Records, one of two popular independent record stores in the city. Shake It is not only a retail store, but also an indie label, with a small catalogue consisting mostly of local punk and indie bands, as well as a few CD reissues built around the city’s soul and country music scenes. The store is truly awesome, with a music book selection and plenty of new and used CD’s upstairs, then a really cool basement downstairs full of new and used vinyl. Down the block and across the street is Sidewinder Coffee, a local Cincinnati coffee bar with some sweets and a limited food menu, which makes a great place to sit down with a latte after an hour of record shopping.
Breakfast at the Half Day Cafe in the little village of Wyoming, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. Then I started the day of going around to record stores, starting with the FYE stores in malls. At one mall, I entered a shop and found a Cincinnati Bengals Chad Ocho Cinco shirt, which I had to get for the upcoming NFL season. At the CD Warehouse on the westside, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of brightly painted wooden boxes with holes, decorated with Bengals, Steelers or Reds logos. Inside, I asked the store employes about them, and they said “You’re not from Cincinnati, are you?” They explained to me that they were “corn bag hole boards”, and that the game, somewhat like horseshoes, involved tossing bags filled with corn at the board. Hitting the board is worth so many points, and getting it in the hole is worth more.
Meanwhile, as I drove across the riverfront from west to east, nasty black clouds were developing over the hills to the south on the Kentucky side. Soon showers were developing everywhere, and when I got out by Eastgate Mall, the rains came. There was a Cheeseburger in Paradise location there, and I ate dinner there before going across the street to the mall to drop off posters at the last FYE store for the day.
Chad Ocho-Cinco had tweeted that he was sparring at a boxing gym at an elementary school near my hotel and was wanting people to come out and watch him box, but I was late for the showcase at Elementz, so I drove straight over to the center, in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. Elementz board members had been asked to be present, and therefore the crowd was standing room only and extremely hot in the basement auditorium where the event was being held. Many talented young people rapped and sang for the crowd for about two hours, and then the event was over. Abdullah met me briefly at Baba Budan’s Coffee House in the University of Cincinnati area, and we talked over cups of coffee, and then he had to leave, and I drove back to the hotel, watching the employes lock up the Hard Ta Knock hip-hop clothing shop across the street from the coffee bar as I drove past.
Tucker’s Restaurant was in a rough-and-tumble ‘hood called Over The Rhine, and the endless blocks of vacant board-ups was anything but reassuring as I parked my car on a nearby side street and walked to the restaurant. Inside, though, the place was a bustle of activity, with yuppies and street entrepreneurs alike starting a bright, blue Sunday morning with coffee, bacon, eggs and pancakes. After breakfast, I got in touch with Abdullah, who agreed to meet me at Sitwell’s Coffee Bar near the University of Cincinnati campus. Always a fan of Edith Sitwell’s Facade, I was somewhat amazed and thrilled to be sitting in a coffeehouse named for her. Abdullah met me there with another partner of his, and we hung out there talking for awhile, and then I headed over to Shake It Records again, where I bought the Jamie Liddell album that contained the song I had heard the night before in Rookwood Pavilion, and a King Records retrospective CD. The weather was anything but pretty when I headed out from Cincinnati toward Louisville, but the trip only took and hour and a half. I checked into the Hampton Inn where my room was, and then walked a couple of blocks down to the conference, which was being held at a nightclub. After the panel discussion I was on had ended, I drove across the bridge to Jeffersonville, Indiana to the Longhorn Steakhouse for a late dinner, and then stopped by the Highland Coffee Company on Bardstown Road for a coffee before heading back to the room.
I drove up to Cincinnati on Saturday morning to spend a day there before the Kymp Kamp Music Conference in Louisville the next day. The drive up was relatively uneventful except for the twisted, broken trees everywhere caused by the recent ice storm.
It was already dark when I got to Covington, Kentucky and I drove straight up to Shake It Records on the Northside of Cincinnati, but they were having an instore concert, and the store was so crowded that it was hard to move.
Back at my car in the parking lot, I used my iPhone to call restaurants, but with it being Valentine’s Day, everyone was on a long wait. I finally found a restaurant called Rookwood Pavilion, which was up on Mount Adams east of downtown, and they told me that there wouldn’t be a wait, so I drove over there as quickly as I could, and found that the restaurant was in an old pottery kiln with a view of the river to the south and downtown to the west. Inside, futuristic dance music was playing, and some of the tables were inside the old brick kilns. I had a strip steak with frites, relaxing while some sort of cool neo-soul was playing overhead. I pulled out my iPhone to capture it with Shazam, and found that it was a song by an artist I’d never heard of named Jamie Liddell.
After dinner, I had called Abdullah, my friend from Elementz Hip Hop Youth Center in Cincinnati, but he was about to take a friend out to eat, so we agreed to meet up the next day, and I headed downtown to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, where there was live music going on. After midnight, I drove out to the Holiday Inn in Sharonville where I had reservations and checked in.
I checked out of the Sheraton, and used my iPhone to locate a breakfast place called the Half Day Cafe, which turned out to be in a little village south of Sharonville called Wyoming. The cheerful, brightly-colored restaurant was crowded, but I had no trouble finding a table, and enjoyed a great breakfast there. Then I headed to CD Warehouse in Sharonville, CD Exchange in Kenwood and Everybody’s Records, dropping off Haystak postcards and posters, before Abdullah called me to meet him at a coffee bar near the University of Cincinnati. First I dropped more promotional materials at CD Game Exchange on Short Vine Street, and then I ran into some young men in front of a recording studio, and I talked with them briefly about Select-O-Hits Music Distribution, and then headed up the street and over to Taza Coffee Lounge, where Abdullah and a young rapper from the Elementz program were waiting for me. After enjoying a latte and talking with them, I headed on to Shake It Records on Hamilton Avenue, and then over to the westside CD Warehouse, listening to the CD of Cincinnati soul star Kenny Smith which I had purchased at Everybody’s Records earlier in the day. Afterwards, I headed across the bridge into Kentucky, and I decided not to eat dinner in the area, but to drive on to the Louisville area. The sun was just beginning to set when I arrived in Louisville, and I drove across into Jeffersonville, Indiana to the Buckhead Mountain Grill, which had an outdoor deck and was built on the bank of the Ohio River. Although it was somewhat cool, and a lot of people were out on the river deck, I chose to eat indoors. After dinner, back on the Kentucky side, I drove to Underground Sounds and then to Ear X-Tacy in the Bardstown/Highlands area. I had seen a place called the Pie Kitchen on Bardstown, so after I finished distributing promotional materials to record stores, I drove back there and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a piece of homemade chocolate silk pie just before they closed for the night. Then, driving downtown, I easily found the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where I valet parked my car and checked in. My room was large and spacious, with a beautiful view of the downtown skyline, and, better yet, an iPod dock that played the music on my iPhone. The hotel was within walking distance of the Fourth Street Live district, but I decided to go on to bed instead.