Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Annabell's Lounge Hosts Old School Sinema Charity Zombie Walk

Zombies Invade Highland Square to Fight Hunger!
by Brit Charek

Akron area residents will be fighting hunger in a peculiar way this weekend-- by eating brains instead. 

This Saturday, Annabell's Lounge in Highland Square is hosting a charity Zombie Walk, where participants donate food items, get their makeup done, and collectively stumble onto the streets of Akron posing as the undead.

"We are very excited to be back in Akron especially for a spring Zombie Walk, which is something we haven't done often there," says Joe Ostrica, Old School Sinema founder who organizes and promotes the Zombie Walks, "The Akron community really gets into our event and it's a fun crowd. Annabell's is a great venue to host it and the entire Highland Square area is right up our alley. It's real cool to see the locals' reactions to our zombies taking over the streets."

Old School Sinema has now organized more than a dozen Zombie Walk events in Northeast Ohio and has helped raise more than 15,000 pounds of food in the past 6 years in the fight against hunger. ""We're expecting beautiful weather and our biggest crowd yet in Akron," says Ostrica, who also makes low-budget horror films in the Northeast Ohio region. You can learn more and connect with him by befriending Old School Sinema on Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Kaczmarski from the first Akron Zombie Walk in 2011

The 4th Old School Sinema Akron Zombie Walk and Food Drive will take place Saturday May 4 at Annabell's Lounge in Highland Square. Admission is $5 plus two canned or non-perishable food items. The walk starts at 3pm, but attendees are encouraged to arrive when the doors open at noon to get their makeup done and enjoy the party. Makeup costs $5 to $10, depending on how detailed the work requested is. (That could include extra blood, latex, etc.) 

To learn more or to check out photos of previous events, check out the event page on Facebook, and don't forget to RSVP.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alan Brooks: Music Review

Alan Brooks: Music Review
by Joanna Wilson

A few weeks ago, Akron Empire's Brit wrote an artist profile for Akron-based Cleveland-native singer/songwriter Alan Brooks.  Click HERE to see the artist profile again.  Brooks is hosting a new album release show on Friday, April 19th at 9pm taking place at Uncorked Wine Bar in downtown Akron.  In anticipation of this new album, I thought I'd share a review of his sound so far this year.

American in Paris features three cover songs, duets with Alan Brooks and Alexis Rosen.

This past January, Brooks released recordings of three cover songs under the title American in Paris.  Showing off his admiration for vintage Hollywood romance, the three covers are duets with female vocalist/musician Alexis Rosen.  American in Paris includes the heart-swelling classic cuts La Vie en Rose, Ain't No Sunshine, and Dream A Little Dream of Me.   Taking on French singer Edith Piaf's signature song, Brooks and Rosen's La Vie en Rose starts off bold and assertive only to grow more tender and subtle as it draws to a close--a successful seduction for a song that's seventy years old.  Ain't No Sunshine originally by Bill Withers, is here stripped down and built back up as a jazz-inspired guitar-backed duet.  And, Dream A Little Dream of Me, made famous to modern audiences by Mama Cass Elliot and the Mamas & the Pappas, floats dream-like along as it should.  I think this song is my favorite among the cover songs, and the harmonizing vocals and the lilting notes hit the emotion just right.  If you'd like to hear these three songs, check out Brook's bandcamp site: American in Paris/Pleuvoir Sessions.

Side A. & Side B. is a two track release to give audiences a teaser while we await the new album Alibi.

To whet appetites for his upcoming new album Alibi, Brooks has released Side A. & Side B. which contains one new track Taxi Cab and one previously released track Probably Never.   The new track Taxi Cab shows another side of Brooks, one more cynical than the previous romantic cover songs reveal.  Taxi Cab reminds listeners of urban heartbreak with its edgier jazz guitar and more worldly lyrics.  You can almost hear the rain hit the windshield as Brooks sings about all-too-familiar heart break with the repeated lyric "life's too short."  Never bitter, Brooks couples this track with the previously released pop uptempo song Probably Never which, despite its title, reveals a more hopeful outlook for finding love.  This track recorded with a fuller back-up band sound was originally released on Brook's first EP entitled Getting from A to B.  You can listen to these two tracks at Brooks' Noisetrade site: Side A. & Side B.

New album Alibi will be released Friday April 19th, 2013.

Alan Brooks' new album Alibi will be released on Friday April 19th.  You can buy a physical CD from the artist at his show that same night at Uncorked Wine Bar in downtown Akron.  Click HERE for the facebook event page.  You can purchase a digital copy after April 26th.  This new album was  "...recorded “one take” style live in the studio. The bare bones method lets the listener hear every dynamic change of Alan’s voice and feel all dissonance of the frequent chord changes."  Fans of musicians John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae, the Roots, and Norah Jones can appreciate the soulful sounds and jazz-influence of Alan Brooks' music.  Self-described "Smart pop for the soulfully inclined and vintage inspired" is dead-on.  I'm looking forward to hearing the new tracks and continuing to watch this artist grow.

Alan Brooks website: http://alanbrooksmusic.com/
Alan Brooks' Alibi release party event on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/134226013417841/

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Record Store Day: The Holiday for Music Lovers

Akron Empire is excited to welcome back guest blogger and good friend J Hudson! He's written about Blue Door Café,  Crafty Mart, and local artist Justin Crowe. Thanks again, J!

Records Store Day: The Holiday for Music Lovers
by J Hudson

For music lovers, especially lovers of vinyl records, nothing marks the arrival of spring more than Record Store Day (RSD). For the last six years, on the third Saturday in April, which this year is the 20th, about 700 independently owned record stores across the country have teamed with musicians to celebrate the culture of alternative music exemplified by independent record stores and their quixotic breed of customers.
Limited edition vinyl and CDs are released just for RSD along with promotional products like posters and t-shirts. These few of a kind products can only be purchased at participating RSD shops. This year's releases are from a wide variety of artists, including but not limited to the Black Keys/Stooges, Roky Erickson, Husker Du, Flaming Lips, Donny Hathaway, Iron and Wine, the Hold Steady, Phish , the Grateful Dead, Fela Kuti, the White Stripes, Sigur Ros and the soundtrack to the movie Drive. Each store gets a different number and variety of releases. Not all stores get all releases, so if there is something you really want, make sure to check with your independent record store before RSD and confirm that the record you want will be in your record store. To find the participating Record Store Day stores near you, go to the Records Store Day website and search by zip code or city.

This year, Square Records in Highland Square is offering a split 7" from Cloud Nothings and Relaxer. According to Square Record's owner David Ignizio, “This is a joint release between Square Records and My Mind's Eye Records (in Lakewood) and there will only be 150 copies available at those two shops.”
Square Records will also being having raffles, goodie bags for anyone who spends over $50 (while they last) and DJs spinning vinyl from 5pm to 9pm. They'll even have donuts for the early birds waiting in line before the store opens. Ignizio says that RSD has grown bigger each year. What started as just a few attendees in 2008 has grown into a steady stream of customers in the store from opening at 11am until closing at 9pm.  According to their Facebook event page, Square Records has ordered about 200 different RSD titles in 12, 10 and seven inch vinyl, CD and cassette formats.

To learn more about Square Records, check out our post from last year by clicking here.

For the first time this year, RSD is also being celebrated by local public radio station WKSU. That station's outreach group, WKSU Now, is putting on a RSD Bring Your Own Vinyl Night at the WKSU station on the campus of Kent State. According to spokeswoman Ann VerWiebe of WKSU, WKSU Now is a social group for the next generation of WKSU fans, primarily young professionals. Bring Your Own Vinyl Night will have MC Kabir Bhatia spinning the records you bring and some from his own collection. According to Bhatia, "he'll be using vintage turntables but with brand-new needles." Ver Wiebe says that if you don't have your own vinyl, come anyway, there will be plenty of vinyl to listen to from the WKSU collection. There will also be food provided and prizes. Nibble, sip, mingle, chat; have a good time. The festivities begin at 7pm at the WKSU station, 1613 East Summit St, Kent, Ohio 44240.

To find out more or to sign up to attend, which is required, go to the WKSU Now website. To learn more about Record Store Day, check out their website.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today, April 13th, Akron Empire celebrated our 1st year of the blog at Thirsty Dog Brewery.  A great big thank you to all the people that joined our party.  It was meaningful for us to hold our party at the tasting room of Thirsty Dog because Brit's blog post about the brewery and the tour was one of our first posts last year.  Click HERE to see the post about Thirsty Dog again.

Joanna and Brit drinking a toast to Akron Empire's future.

Our circle of chairs kept growing as more and more joined the party.

Our anniversary party was also a wonderful reminder of all the great guest posts we've had in this past year.  Our party guests included:

Roza Haidet who shared her cat tumblr site Akron Cats Unite!
Karen Starr from Hazel Tree Interiors
Dina who guest blogged twice for us--American Cancer Society Discovery Shop and
Laura Maidens who guest blogged about Good Life Tattoos and Piercings
Juniper Sage who shared her visit to the historic John Brown House
Dominic Caruso who wrote two music reviews--Dolly Rocker Ragdoll and
J Phillip Hudson who guest blogged about Blue Door Café,
Nat from LoveWhatIDo Photography who contributed photos for The Spot post 
Mathias Noble King who wrote about the Saffron Patch
and many friends, family, spouses, and more who joined us in toasting to Akron Empire's future.

Party guests enjoying food from Stray Dog Cart.

As more and more people arrived, we began to add tables surrounded by even more chairs!  We're so lucky to have so many friends <3

One awesome person, Karen Starr, even gave Brit and Joanna handmade cards for their successes.  LOVE IT! Thanks Karen.

In addition to food from Stray Dog Cart, we also enjoyed snacking on savory and sweet baked goods from DeVitis Fine Italian Foods bakery on Tallmadge Ave.  Many thanks to Thirsty Dog and Stray Dog Cart for helping us celebrate.

We are looking forward to our second year and exploring more of Northeast Ohio's best and most interesting places and meeting even more people.  We're always interested in adding more voices to the Empire and if you're interested in guest blogging, please email us your ideas: AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Skullz Salon in Kent

Skullz Salon: 125 South Water Street in downtown Kent

Skullz Salon: the Best Head of Your Life
by Joanna Wilson

When I moved to northeast Ohio in 2008, I was looking for a salon that could give me a one-of-a-kind haircut.  Skullz Salon in Kent made it clear from their business name that they were doing something different than every other salon in town.  It is certainly one of my favorite places in the Akron Empire.  In those five years since I've been going there, the salon has grown to offer so much more than women's and men's hair, facials, nails, and waxing services.

Main styling area in Skullz features chandeliers, black leather chairs, and murals.  Photo courtesy of Skullz Salon.

Main waiting area.  Skullz exclusively uses Bumble and Bumble products. Photo courtesy of Skullz Salon.

This past week was the grand opening party for The House of Skullz, an annex educational space located also on South Water Street where the Skullz team and other stylists can take on their continuing education requirements to maintain and update their licenses.  But this is also a cool space for people like you and me to reserve for wedding or bachelorette parties, and birthday parties.

My favorite of the new murals in the learning annex.
On the inside, the annex looks much like Skullz Salon does--both spaces embrace an urban, hip smartness created by floor-to-ceiling spray painted/graffiti-style murals.  The murals are created by Skullz' very talented manager, Amanda.

Another view of the salon's waiting area--LOVE those black leather chairs and sofa!  Photo courtesy of Skullz Salon.

When was the last time you looked forward to getting your hair cut or styled?  The stylists at Skullz are all focused, talented, and well-prepared to give everyone an individualized cut, color, and style--services you'll never find at the mall!  While I'm sitting in the chair getting my beauty treatment, I'm surrounded by these gorgeous wall murals, and believe it or not, it's edifying.  Now go get your wig busted at Skullz!

The stylists and staff at Skullz: The Beauty Bunch.  Photo courtesy of Skullz Salon.

Skullz Salon: 125 South Water Street, Kent, OH 44240
(330) 676-9663
Skullz website: http://theskullzsalon.com/
Facebook link:  Skullz Salon
Twitter: @skullzsalon

Monday, April 8, 2013

Countryside Conservancy Offers a Class on How to Raise Backyard Chickens

Countryside Conservancy Offers a Class on How to Raise Backyard Chickens and More!
by Brit Charek

Have you ever thought about raising your own chickens? Whether you're interested in getting fresh organic eggs for breakfast or meat for dinner, Countryside Conservancy can answer all your questions about raising a small flock of chickens right in your own backyard on Tuesday, April 9th at Stone Cottage Farm and Garden in Cuyahoga Falls. They claim it's easier than you'd think!

In addition to helping you with all your questions and concerns about backyard chickens, there will also be give-aways and drawings to make the class fun. Click here to register for the class or to check out some of CC's other fun classes, including how to start your own vegetable garden and how to preserve those vegetables you won't be able to consume. 

Last time we wrote about Countryside Conservancy, we were at their monthly Food Swap. This month, they have changed the location from downtown to The Banyan Tree in Bath to mix it up a bit. Food swaps take place the third Tuesday of every month. The next one will be on Tuesday, April 16th. If you're curious about swapping, you can read more about it and register by clicking here. Also, click here to check out our post about how to be prepared as a first time swapper.

Akron Empire loves Countryside Conservancy and is looking forward to more great classes and events hosted by them to help Ohioans support the farming community!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Akron Zoo

The signage at the entrance welcomes visitors into the parking area.

A Day at the Akron Zoo
by Joanna Wilson

Wanting to get outside and enjoy one of the first sunny Spring days of the year, I spent the afternoon at the Akron Zoo.  To be honest, I haven't been to the Akron Zoo since the 1970s--and I don't remember much.  So I felt like it was certainly time to re-visit one of our city's institutions.  Expecting the place to be empty on a weekday during the school year, I was quickly corrected.  The parking lot was full and the zoo was active with people during my visit--a reminder that everyone else in Akron is eager for warmer weather to arrive just as I am.

The South American penguins were active in the water...

...and the flamingos were sitting pretty.

And not just the people--even the animals were out in the warm sunshine.  The bird exhibits were all filled with activity and movement while the large mammals seemed happily laying about sunning themselves.  One of the highlights of my day was walking into the enclosed aviary and being inside the enclosure with all of the dizzying flying, squawking, and chirping surrounding me.  I could even easily spot the wild turkey in the aviary--it too was sitting in the sun although its feathers perfectly matched the ground it sat upon.

This kimodo dragon is also in an indoor exhibit--I didn't realize how BIG these things are!?

Even if it hadn't been the best of weather, some of the best exhibits are the indoor ones.  I stood for a long time enjoying the fruit bats in the bat house.  Behind one glass wall were a VERY large number of small fruit bats all hanging in the dimly lit enclosure.  Only after I stood there for a long while could I see small movements by the bats and then I realized how MANY there were!  It made me feel uneasy so I turned away to the glass enclosure across the room to see more fruit bats--these ones were HUGE!  I was lucky enough to arrive just after feeding time because one bat was just at eye level hanging upside down with his head in a metal bowl of chopped apples.  Dare I say he was adorable?

All along the walkways are parcourse signs to add fitness to your animal watching.  Or, perhaps it's just for the entertainment of the zoo animals?

Park employee Josette manned a cart asking visitors to play a game about whether animals were either nocturnal or diurnal.  I got more than a few wrong :(  Later, Josette moved to the touch tank for people to directly experience underwater animals.

One of the things that most impressed me about the Akron Zoo are the many interactive opportunities for kids and adults to participate in and maximize their zoo experience.  The park encourages fitness as you walk from exhibit to exhibit with signage that instructs physical activities.  There are also numerous stations that allow visitors to interact with what can be learned about these animals or their environments such as the underwater touch tank, the Nocturnal Game, or the wheel-spinning Tiger Survival Game.  I also appreciated all the zoo's walkways that were lined with beautiful plants, trees, and bushes--most of which are labeled to help identify what kind of plants they are.  Of course, there's also riding the train, feeding select animals, and taking a spin on the carousel. 

Spin the choice:  Can You Survive in the Wild? The Tiger Survival Game is another example of an interactive element at the zoo.

Not traditional carousel horses, this ride is filled with animals from all over the world.

Yet, my most favorite part of the zoo was the numerous creative and decorative elements throughout the park.  Akron Zoo is filled with animal sculptures, statues, and even topiary.  These beautiful details enhanced my walk around the grounds and inspired me to appreciate my day with the animals.  These sorts of elements were far more edifying than expected.

Gorgeous decorative wall at the zoo.

Animal sculptures fill every turn and nook within the park.

I couldn't resist getting my photo taken while seated upon a butterfly bench on the edge of the french gardens in the zoo.

If you're looking to plan a visit to the Akron Zoo, let me call your attention to a new sprawling set of exhibits opening in July.  Called Grizzly Ridge, there will soon be wolves, bears, eagles, and even otters in separate enclosures.  The construction work is going on now and it's hard to not get excited about the expansion to come.  How long has it been since you've been at the Akron Zoo?

Coming THIS summer!

The Akron Zoo website: http://www.akronzoo.org/
Through the month of April, open everyday 11am-4pm for $6 per person
May through October, open every day 10am-5pm for $10 per person

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hudson Artist Justin Crowe's "Meme The World" Project

Akron Empire  would once again like to thank guest blogger J Hudson for contributing. He wrote about the origins of Crafty Mart back in November (click here to see that post) and about the Blue Door Cafe & Bakery last December (click here to check out that post again). Thanks again for contributing, J, and we look forward to seeing more posts from you in the future!

Hudson Area Artist Sets out to Meme the World
by J Hudson
Whether it's Grumpy Cat, Boromir or Futurama Fry, if you've spent even a few minutes online, you've probably encountered and even helped spread a meme. A meme is defined by Merriam Webster's dictionary, as "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." Online memes are usually a photo with a funny caption that get reposted or forwarded from friend to friend in e-mails. Memes usually occur spontaneously: someone creates a funny post and it gets forwarded and forwarded again in the cyber equivalent of a germy handshake. But now Hudson artist Justin Crowe has created a project he calls Meme the World (MTW) in which he seeks to create and document a meme from scratch.
Crowe's MTW Project's goal is to distribute coffe mugs to people around the world. Each mug has a photo of a kitten holding up a framed sign with the words, "Meme the World!" and instructions printed on the bottom that read:
1) Use cup,
2) Photograph your experience
3) Upload your photos to….
4) Pass the mug to a new person."

MTW participants then upload their photos of their experience to the MTW website archiving their involvement along with hundreds or thousands of others. The MTW site already has a few dozen photos of people posing with the MTW mug, or the MTW mug in places like coffee shops and on the cobblestone streets of London. The MTW Participants can then follow the trail of their cup using unique cup identification tags as it is passed forward, photographed, pass forward, photographed, and passed forward again.

MTW is in the early stages and Crowe is currently raising money for the project through crowd sourcing on Kickstarter. According to the MTW Kickstarter page, Crowe "believe(s) in the cultural value of creativity. MTW archives ideas & experiences through the sharing of a simple object: The Coffee Mug." But most of all, Crowe says, MTW is about fun. "This is an art piece that aims to collect photographs of participant's diverse ideas, cultures, and environments in one place where everyone is connected by a shared experience."

Crowe has raised about $1500 toward the required $5000 on Kickstarter. You can donate as little as you want, but with a $25 donation you'll receive a MTW mug that's been up cycled from a second hand store. For $30 you'll get a handmade mug from Crowe, who has a BFA in ceramics and primarily works in clay. For $35 donation, you'll get two MTW mugs, one to keep and one to send off into the world. There are also business sponsorships available and art for sale on the site by Crowe and other artists.

For more information about the Meme The World project, visit the MTW website (http://memetheworld.com) or Kickstarter fundraising site (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/882963751/meme-the-world)