Monday, February 25, 2013

Album Review: 'The Reunion' by Bethesda

Review: The Reunion by Bethesda
by Brit Charek

I have to admit, writing this review has been very difficult for me. The toughest thing I find about acting the part of a critic is finding the appropriate words to describe something entirely new. It seems like the only way to do that is to reference something familiar. Usually critics describe something a new record as the secret lovechild of two artists that came before. For example, if you got the Avett Brothers on the same stage with the New Pornographers (that is, if you could find a big enough stage), it might sound like something off of Bethesda's latest album, The Reunion.

The album starts off intimately with just Shanna Delaney's haunting but powerful voice, but the title track quickly picks up speed as the other instruments come in. It just about knocks you over with what feels like a call to arms reminiscent to traditional folk music, with a bit of a modern indie edge.

"My sincere hope is that when the album is done spinning our fans are left with a feeling of hope and joy," says drummer Justin Rife. He went on to talk about the process of making the record and the extreme efforts that everyone went to in order for it to be produced exactly the way they wanted it to be. The band's former producer and engineer, Tim Gerak, had moved to Colorado to work at Mamouth Cave Records. "Despite his best efforts to get away from us," Rife explains, "We all drove to Denver to record this record. We all have day jobs and had to take vacation time to make it work. I was also in school at the time. We were basically living in the studio for a week. Some of us slept in iso booths while others didn't sleep at all."

"This album is the culmination of three albums of discovery pushing us into what would eventually be a cohesive and robust sound," says bassist Dan Corby, "We get put in the category of indie-folk-rock but it goes beyond that with elements of other musical influences from all our diverse music histories. On this new album we've added two new members, violinist Chris Black and guitarist Jesse Scaggs. They both have brought something completely new to the table. Both expanding our sound and giving us new perspective on it."

It's true-- The Reunion carries with it a more mature tone than did Bethesda's previous albums. Although it maintains the same high energy, the motive behind it feels a little darker and more serious. It's intriguing for both old fans and new, and leaves the listener ready for more.

The determination of the band in making The Reunion has certainly paid off. Bethesda has just announced that they are signing with InKind Music and that their new album will be distributed by Sony Music, along with the likes of Mumford & Sons, another indie folk outfit, who won last year's Grammy for Album of the Year.

The Reunion was a fan-funded album, via fundraising website Kickstarter. Even though now they've signed to a big label it's unlikely that Bethesda will forget their fans. When asked his favorite moment in the band thus far  guitarist and banjo player Jesse Scaggs explains, "A new fan approached us after a show completely in tears because she was so moved by our performance. I think we've all connected deeply with a form of art at some point in our lives in a way that's overwhelmed us to tears, or at least close to it. Just knowing that we've done this for at least one person is something that I am so incredibly proud of."

Want to experience Bethesda live yourself? They're having an Album Release Party this Saturday, March 2 at Musica with A Band Named Ashes and Eddie Doldrum. To RSVP on Facebook, click here.

To learn more about Bethesda, visit their website at Also make sure to check out our band profile of them from last summer, written by guest blogger Ash Adams.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Akron Empire Anniversary Party, Saturday April 13th, 2013

YOU'RE INVITED!  Mark your calendars for the celebration marking the completion of our first year of Akron Empire.  We're going to celebrate on Saturday, April 13th from 3pm -- 6pm at Thirsty Dog Brewery's tasting room.  Drop by for as little or as long as you like.  Not only will we be celebrating our first year and our 100th blog post--but we'll be making toasts to another exciting year!

Community building since March, 2012.

Who is invited?  If you're reading this--YOU ARE!  We'd like to thank you for giving Akron Empire a reason to exist.  We'd also like to specially invite all our past guest bloggers to join the party--as well as all of those community members interested in becoming a guest blogger in 2013.  Have a band, organization, business, event, or group that may appeal to the readers of Akron Empire?  Bring your ideas and come meet the network of people that go into producing the ever-sprawling Empire.

We'll be meeting in Thirsty Dog's tasting room but they will be open for regular business--they accept cash only.  While this party is free--you will need to buy your own drinks.  Why not bring your growler and get it filled while you're there?  We support buying local.  See you on Sat. April 13th.

RSVP at the Facebook event link: Akron Empire Anniversary Party
Saturday, April 13th, 2013 between 3pm and 6pm.
Thirsty Dog Brewery tasting room

Monday, February 18, 2013

Countryside Conservacy's Monthly Food Swap

Review: Countryside Conservancy's Monthly Food Swap
by Brit Charek

Last month I was lucky enough to make it to the Food Swap at Uncorked Wine Bar hosted by Countryside Conservancy. They hold Food Swaps the third Tuesday of each month. The next swap will be held tomorrow, at Uncorked Wine Bar downtown starting at 6pm. If you're interested in participating, you can register by clicking here and filling out this form. To keep up with Countryside Conservancy's upcoming events, including Farmer's Markets and Local Mixers for Foodies and Farmers, make sure to "like" their Facebook page.

Look at the bag of goodies one swapper left with! 
So what exactly is a Food Swap? Basically, everyone brings some food items to trade and then you spend a couple hours bidding on what you'd like to trade your items to get. For more details, check out my post from last month.

Ok, so I compiled a list of advice for newbie food swappers:

1. Don't go overboard.
Make a surplus of one or two items-- that way it's clear what options are available to those who you want to swap with. For example, we took chocolate zucchini cupcakes and packaged them in boxes of four. The portions should be something comparable to an 8 oz jar of jam or something that costs $5.

2. Label your ingredients, on each package!
We made the mistake of only bringing one list of ingredients, which might have limited who wanted to swap with us. Which leads me to my next point...

3. Keep in mind who you might want to swap with!
If you want some of Ms. Julie's famous vegan kale chips, she's not going to want any of your stuff if there's dairy product in it! Mind you, this is not a vegan food swap, but if you want to swap with people with dietary restrictions (who doesn't have one these days?) then you'll have to be accommodating. The next time I food swap, I plan to take something gluten-free in addition to whatever I decide to take.

4. Don't be sensitive!
If you take three dozen chocolate zucchini cupcakes, the worst that could possibly happen is that you come home with three dozen chocolate zucchini cupcakes, which are your favorite. You wouldn't have prepared them if you didn't love them.
For our eight packages of cupcakes, we left with: chocolate covered pretzels, rice pudding, tequila lime butter (terrific on popcorn!), a loaf of handmade multi-grain bread, dried basil and a jar of jam. Plus we had a package left to share with new friends over a glass of post-swap wine. (Did I mention this takes place at a Wine Bar?)

5. Cute packaging makes a difference.
The type of people who come to these events are often professionals who are used to packaging up their stuff or crafty people who read cute blogs about what to take to a food swap. Take a minute to invest in packaging your goods. If you need some ideas, consult Pintrest.

6. Bring extra product for sampling.
That way, potential bidders can see how much they need your item.

7. Above all else, have fun.

Countryside Conservancy's next Food Swap is tomorrow, Tuesday February 19 at Uncorked Wine Bar (22 N. High Street downtown Akron) The swap starts at 6 pm and lasts about two hours.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Urban Eats in Downtown Akron

Urban Eats is tucked in the corner, down Maiden Lane, next to Musica.

Urban Eats
by Joanna Wilson

Looking for breakfast, lunch, or a coffee break in downtown Akron?  Almost hidden, down Maiden Lane (the alley way between Crave and 3 Point on Market Street), is the destination of choice, Urban Eats.  They specialize in lunch time favorites: soups, wraps, paninis, and flat bread pizzas.

The Chuck & Mary panini, served with fresh popped popcorn.

Urban Eats features a new menu every month with daily specials posted on Facebook each day.  (Click HERE for link to their fb page: Urban Eats).  February's menu reflects Valentine's Day and each wrap, panini, and pizza is named after an Akron couple.  On my last stop there, I enjoyed the Chuck & Mary panini--a deluxe grilled cheese of sorts, with cream cheese, brie, cheddar, and mozzarella, with tomato and thyme. 

The Zack & Lisa wrap--love those Mexican sodas!

My lunch guest ordered the Zack& Lisa wrap--a gourmet fish taco with pan seared tilapia, crunchy tortilla strips, pico de gallo, and fresh cilantro slaw.  I also love the Mexican soda pop made with real sugar that they sell from the cooler.

Urban Eats sponsored the Halloween pumpkin carving contest in 2012--this was my entry.

But I've actually eaten at Urban Eats many times over the last several years as they are a fixture of the downtown community.  Urban Eats was a sponsor of the pumpkin carving contest last October and they make a special effort to open for Crafty Mart held at Musica every spring and fall.  And, all my friends who work downtown talk about eating at Urban Eats regularly. 

Where is your favorite place to eat in the Akron Empire?  Want to guest blog for us? Email us with your ideas at AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com.  In the meantime, stop down and have yourself lunch at Urban Eats.

Urban Eats
51 E. Market St., Akron OH 44308
open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm
website with menu:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lagerhead's Smokehouse and Brewery in Abbeyville

Lagerhead's Smokehouse and Brewery
by Brit Charek

I'm on a mission to slowly work my way through every Microbrewery in Northeast Ohio (Check out my review of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron), and low and behold one of my new favorites has been right under my nose this whole time! Lagerhead's Smokehouse and Brewery is located in Abbeyville, Ohio-- a small rural township situated between Medina and Brunswick, which happens to be in very close proximity to the small rural township I grew up in.

I first discovered Lagerhead's beer at the grocery store. When I saw that it was brewed and bottled in Medina I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it and I just had to check it out.

Lagerhead's has the type of decor you'd expect from a country bar in a historic building that specializes in barbecue, only a bit modernized and much cleaner. There's antlers and animal heads on the wall, redneck jokes posted in the bathroom and country music coming from the speakers. The restaurant is divided into two sides. There's the bar to the right, and to the left there's a more family-oriented restaurant with diner-style booths. Overall, it's a fun and charming atmosphere.  

They had six beers brewed in house on tap, along with the standard Bud and Miller Light
The bartender was awesome. She was knowledgeable about the beers and pretty much embodied country hospitality, complete with a sweet Southern twang in her voice. Since it was late and kind of slow and we were asking a lot of questions about the beer, she referred us to Scott who was running the back of the house to give us a mini-tour of where the magic happens.

After a quick rundown of the fermentation process, we learned a little more about the history of the establishment. They opened up as a restaurant in 2004, and have done nothing but expand since then. They started their microbrewery in 2010. Not only is all the beer made in house, but even the artwork for the labels is done by a spouse of one of the servers.

My only complaint is that the menu isn't all that vegetarian-friendly, but why should it be? It's a Smokehouse! Either way, I still plan to go back for nachos, which can be ordered sans pulled pork and are topped with their award-winning barbecue sauce! And of course it's worth the trip just to try their beer. 

 Akron Empire supports all their local breweries!

Lagerhead's Smokehouse 
2832 Abbeyville Rd.
Medina, OH 44256

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ultrasphinx / Bad Trouble Split 7" Review

 Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Dominic Caruso for this record review of two local bands.  Last year, Dominic also wrote about Dolly Rocker Ragdoll--click HERE to see that post again.  If you're interested in guest blogging or having your local band written about, please email us at AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com.

Ultrasphinx/Bad Trouble Split 7" Review
by Dominic Caruso

The monumentally named Ultrasphinx will release a split 7-inch with Akron garage rockers Bad Trouble on Valentine’s Day. Having been lucky enough to have heard an advance recording, I’ve got to say it really is a love letter straight to your heart. Each group contributes 2 songs to the project.

Photo: Jason M. Tarulli

Photo: Jeff Albers

The Ultrasphinx cuts should please Party of Helicopters fans--both songs capture the buzz saw guitar sound with cascading hooks, pounding rhythm section, and dreamily dispassionate singing of vocalist/guitarist Joe Dennis’ former band. Admittedly, I don’t know enough about POH to make much of a comparison, but perhaps that’s for the best: Ultrasphinx stands on its own merits as an extravagant combination of sounds--somewhere between metal and shoegazer, relentless beats and sheets of guitar sound. The songs “Left Objects” and “Stoned Hearts” present enigmatic lyrics as well, mixing images of eyes and circuitry, and “madness without fear.”  In “Stoned Hearts,” Dennis proclaims “stoned hearts / don’t care / that they’re broken” beneath whistling feedback and fiery guitar scraping. Suffice it to say that band members Aaron Rogers, Ian Cummins, and Dennis have created a dazzling, grotesque hybrid that packs abrasiveness as well as dreamily disorienting melody into its music. It’ll be great to see the songs performed live.

Bad Trouble is garage punk: sneering vocals with clamorous guitars, and sufficiently noisy enough to piss your parents off, assuming your parents aren’t punks themselves. Their Facebook motto is worth forming a punk band just to use: “Loud. And loose. But mostly loud. And loose.” And that’s it--I couldn’t sum up Bad Trouble’s contributions to the 7-inch any more elegantly.  And yet here I go anyway, inelegantly.  “Willis Reed” features Jeff Soper and Eric Blankenhorn’s particularly cool and scornful vocal call-and-response performance, with the added bonus of roaring guitars.  “Man with the Grey Skin” includes a gleefully sloppy, near-psychobilly guitar solo. Loud and loose. One doesn’t need much more.

Catch Ultrasphinx and Bad Trouble together (with The Struttin Cocks) at Now That’s Class in Cleveland on Friday, February 22, and at Annabell’s in Akron on Saturday, February 23, and pick up a copy of the new split 7-inch, it’s well worth hearing.

Facebook page: Ultrasphinx 
Bandcamp site: Ultrasphinx
Facebook page: Bad Trouble

link to Now That's Class concert--Feb. 22
link to Annabelle's concert--Feb. 23

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Spot Downtown Akron

The Spot 
by Brit Charek

I was headed to an event at Uncorked Wine Bar downtown Akron last month when I passed by this sign. I was curious, so I asked around what others had heard about "The Spot."

I was eventually directing to the group's Facebook page, where the organizers of the space describe themselves as "a group of people with a desire to breathe some much needed fresh air into downtown Akron by facilitating creation, collaboration, and bringing artists together. They seek to do this by creating the space known as The Spot: a place where anything goes."

Sounds like fun to me!

On the second Friday of every month, The Spot hosts a party. At these parties you will find an array of North East Ohio's finest visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers and DJs displaying their talents. It goes on all night. There's generally a keg of beer available, but guests are encouraged to bring their own drinks.

In order to continue to have these parties and support local artists, The Spot is raising money to establish themselves as a Non-Profit. To learn more or contribute, check out their website at

Here are some photos from a previous event at The Spot, courtesy of Love What I Do Photography:

You can take a look at the rest of the photos on the photographer's Facebook page:
This coming Friday, February 8 is the Spot's next event, featuring artists Trey Berry, Jessica Fatkins and Emily Fatkins. Musical acts include the talented acoustic duo Rachel Roberts and Ryan Beke, Alex Miller and Sí Sí Three (formerly known as the Conway Brothers Trio).

To learn more, check out the Facebook event page or just show up Friday night around 10:30pm at 27 N. High Street downtown Akron.