Cover Story: Hot Issue: Critics' Picks

How CityBeat thinks you should spend the hot days

Hot Artist: Joseph Winterhalter
Joseph Winterhalter's new exhibition at the Weston Art Gallery, Leaving the 21st Century, acts as a romantic and preliminary look at lived spaces while hinting at the uncanny. Opening June 22, the show brings to mind French philosopher Guy Debord's proposition that time is "made of qualitative leaps" existing as choices connected by familiar spectacle we see every day. Through physical and meticulous applications on massively scaled canvases, Winterhalter seductively fabricates familiar spaces but adds to them a potential of otherness — that merging is the uncanny. Layers of industrial colors scraped back, trapped in coats of encaustic wax, paint, enamel and guttural marks, these abstracted patinas shimmer in melancholic moments. The local artist's 13 canvases recall institutional spaces at times, yet they allow the materiality of paint to fall within the seams of perception resting virally in our collective fringes. Residuals of history literally wrap the surface, rewarding viewers through exquisite material dexterity. We might not see the end of the 21st century, but these "terminal boundaries," as the artist calls them, become delightful spaces to investigate. Winterhalter's exhibition runs through Aug. 31. 513-977-4165. (Ryan Mulligan)

Hot Test: Lite Brite
Two or our favorite things in the world are independent film and music, which is why the ear- and eye-pleasing Lite Brite Indie Pop & Film Test is one of our favorite weekends of each year.

The Test takes over the Southgate House's labyrinthine confines July 27-29, primed for another three-day multimedia extravaganza that has brought in everyone from Indie Rock icons (Mission of Burma) to stellar newcomers (The Clientele and Man Man, to name just two). Curated by Dan McCabe's Thigmotrope Productions, this year's musical lineup is still being crafted — confirmations include national acts Aloha, The High Strung, The Sharp Things, Smoking Popes and West Indian Girl — but expect an eclectic mix that also includes several local favorites. Likewise, the film portion is still being concocted. Staples include the Best of Underneath Cincinnati, and if the past is any indication — previous films include several intriguing Rock docs, crafty shorts and stellar full-length features — disappointment is not an option. Speaking of options, Lite Brite is still seeking submissions of film, motion graphics and animation. If interested, go to to see how you take part in one of the area's best sensory-pleasing parties. (Jason Gargano)

Hot Musical Activism: Rivertown Breakdown
"Rivertown Breakdown is a show about the river for the river by the river!" says the opening statement on the Web site for the annual Rivertown Breakdown music festival (, which showcases the best in local Roots/Americana music. And that statement isn't kidding. The location of the June 9 event (Southgate House in Newport) sits on the banks of the mighty Ohio. The proceeds once again go to River Sweep, an annual effort to clean up the shorelines of the entire length of the Ohio River, from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. How is it "about" the river? Besides being the main purpose of the event, I would wager that every one of the artists has a song in their repertoires about a river. It's Americana tradition. This year's Breakdown features the usual breadth of that tradition, encompassing (but not limited to) Folk, Country, Blues, Bluegrass, Cajun, Western Swing and Gospel. Scheduled to appear this year: Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine (pictured), Comet Bluegrass Allstars, The Katie Laur Band, The Sidecars, Ricky Nye & Chris Werner, Zumba, The Star Devils, Lagniappe, Cincinnati Dancing Pigs, Cuz'n Jake, The Blue Rock Boys, Greg Schaber, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Franklin & Disciples in Praise and the hosts/organizers, Jake Speed & the Freddies. (Mike Breen)

Hot Political Newcomer: Sean Holbrook
Refreshing political maverick or irritating smartass? That's something Cincinnati voters can decide for themselves when they go to the polls Nov. 6 and see Sean Holbrook's name on the ballot for city council. Holbrook, 24, is perhaps the unlikeliest candidate running for council. An area native, he lives in Over-the-Rhine and works as a detox nurse at the Center for Chemical Addiction and Treatment. Despite his serious day job, he's conducting his campaign with a decidedly sardonic touch. He's had local bands write campaign songs that mock, among other topics, development groups like 3CDC and politicians who wear $400 suits while touring poor neighborhoods and shaking hands with residents — all of which have been posted online by his sunglass-wearing, guitar-strumming "Singing Press Secretary" ( Politics has lost touch with the concerns of most people, Holbrook says, and many local politicians are ripe for having their pretentious, preening ways mocked. As a result, he and his circle of friends formed the Social Ironist Party, a group dedicated to focusing on policy issues and making fun of rigid ideologues, conservative or liberal. "Our satire is guided by an underlying sense of morality," he says. "While politics may be a total joke, the issues that face our communities are not. That's why we make friends with wonks who actually understand public policy, even though they lack 'political' skills like putting on nice suits and spouting out cheesy metaphor-lies that embody the American Spirit and make us all feel good about ourselves." (Kevin Osborne)

Hot New Music Fest: Sonic Muse
As the American music festival scene has (with exceptions like Warped Tour and Ozzfest) shifted toward the European model — moving from the traveling road show/package tour concept popularized by Lollapalooza to huge, multi-day "destination" events in one locale — concert promoters have latched on to a brilliant idea. Since all of these great bands are on the road, traveling to these various outdoor fests anyway, why not book your own festival and hire the acts as they're going to/leaving from, say, Bonnaroo or Lolla? Last year Desdemona in Cincinnati and the Kuyahoga Festival in Cleveland did just that and managed to attract some perhaps otherwise unavailable big bands. This year, the folks at Mad Hatter Productions are taking their swing at the concept, presenting the first Sonic Muse Festival at Covington's Madison Theater Aug. 5. The festival is attracting big-shots from the Indie Rock scene like The Hold Steady and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (pictured), up-and-comers like Matt and Kim and Birds of Avalon and local heroes Buffalo Killers, The Virgins, Bad Veins, The Read, The Seedy Seeds, The Great Depression, Angels Of Meth and The Virgins. The event promises to be much anticipated by the bands who are on the road — finally a summer music festival with air-conditioning! If you can deal with the lack of heatstroke, this could turn out to be the Indie music event of the summer. (Mike Breen)

Hot Tunes: Cincy Blues Fest
Isn't it time you got down with Cincinnati Blues? The decision not to could cost you $5 on Aug. 3-4, when the Cincy Blues Society presents the 2007 Blues Fest at Sawyer Point downtown. Admission is $10 for members and $15 for the as yet unhip, but don't worry: Your dollars are good toward a new membership at the sign-up booth. The event's theme is "Once in a Blues Moon," and the two-day jam offers both local and national Blues purveyors: Nick Moss and the Fliptops, Them Bones, The Gospel Four, Velveeta Jones, Walter Trout (pictured), Ralph and the Rhythm Hounds and Steve Tracy, just to name a few. The festival features a tribute to Cincinnati's own King Records, home to such greats as Jack Dupree, Otis Williams & the Charms, Ivory Joe Hunter and the incomparable James Brown. (Hannah Roberts)

Hot Voices: Dreamgirls and the Pops
There's plenty of heat in Cincinnati's Classical scene this summer, but surely one of the across-the-board showstoppers will be the July 7 Cincinnati Pops presentation of music from Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical sensation-turned-Hollywood film blockbuster. With world-renowned conductor Erich Kunzel (pictured) leading the Pops and David Kirkendall directing the May Festival Youth Chorus, three area talents (Michelle Hardin, Kacey Edwards and Tia Toles) will serve as the evening's Young Dreamgirls, joined by the incomparable Jennifer Holliday, who defined the role of Effie in the original stage production and won a Tony, a Drama Desk Award and a Grammy for her stellar efforts. Adding his own unique contributions to the proceedings — and making his debut with the Pops — will be Funk legend Bootsy Collins. This amazing assemblage of talent will translate Dreamgirls' much-loved songbook, including "Love You I Do," "Cadillac Car" and the encore-inducing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," which was a Top 30 chart hit for Holliday back in 1982. 8 p.m. July 7 at Riverbend Music Center. 513-381-3300. (Brian Baker)

Hot Games: Minor League Baseball
To many baseball fans, the minor leagues are a refreshing change of pace from the big league product. Better to settle into a more intimate setting and watch promising young prospects as well as some experienced ballplayers who are still waiting for that call-up to the majors. Dayton is home to the AA Dragons, a Reds farm team, and their inviting Fifth Third Field downtown. You might have to be creative in finding tickets, though — the Dragons are the first and only team in minor league baseball history to sell out an entire season before it began (this season). Over in Northern Kentucky are the Florence Freedom, who play in the Frontier League. Though it has no major league affiliation, the 15-year-old league is considered A level and has managed to some send players higher up in the minors and even a handful to "the show." Their cozy Champion Window Field (pictured) is right off of I-71/75. (P.F. Wilson)

Hot Comeback: Josh Hamilton
Reds outfielder Josh Hamilton is remarkable, and we don't take that statement lightly. The 1999 No. 1 overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays has come back from near oblivion to become one the best baseball — hell, human — stories of 2007. For the uninitiated, Hamilton's tale has all the makings of a melodramatic biopic worthy of an Oprah couch visit: Hugely talented athlete gets hurt, falls in with the wrong crowd, does crack, is estranged from his wife and kids and nearly loses everything. Flash-forward five years and Hamilton — after playing but a handful of games since 2002, none above A ball — makes the Reds roster after a stellar spring training, a major accomplishment if that were the end of the story. Well, not only did he make the team but Hamilton has quickly established himself as one of the Reds best players, a five-tool talent whom everyone admits has superstar written all over him. (Alas, as of press time, he was placed on the DL for gastrointestinal problems.) For those unfamiliar with how anomalous his rapid rise is in baseball circles, it's akin to — well, I can't even think of a proper analogy. I go back to my opening statement: remarkable. (Jason Gargano)

Hot Words: Write Out Loud
Long a nurturer of local aspiring writers, InkTank kicks up its dedication a notch this summer with "Write Out Loud," a partnership with YMCA/CincyAfterSchool to create writing programs for teens at various locations throughout Cincinnati twice a week from June 11 to July 30. Far from a stuffy classroom setting, the creative writing sessions intend to sharpen students' writing skills, self-expression and self-confidence in areas of their interest: poetry, fiction or screen- or stage-play. Participants will "meet other writers, develop their writing skills, find their voice and be heard, perform their work publicly, get published and have fun!" (Hell, I might apply!) Write Out Loud's 10 locations include area high and elementary schools and various libraries. (For a full rundown or to register, see Following the final session, one student from each location will be chosen to take part in a special event at InkTank in which they'll perform their respective talents. Best of all, it's free, but get movin' if you're interested — each location has room for just 15 students. 513-542-0195. (Jason Gargano)

Hot Visions: Pop Life Exhibition
I don't believe that Andy Warhol was an outsider artist to any extent — unless you want to argue that he got so inside he worked his way outside. But in the Visionaries & Voices exhibition this summer, Pop Life: Outsider Artists & the Pop Idea, something rings true. The Pop Idea, in Warhol's words, "after all, was that anybody could do anything." Visionaries & Voices has jumped on that famous Warholism to generate a starting point for an array of work by artists with disabilities. Mundane objects (newspapers, city and suburban streets, advertising and mass-produced items) transform, as they did in Warhol's heyday, into so-called high art. You might wonder if the mundane-turned-esoteric hasn't been done before, and the answer, of course, is yes. But it's never been done like this: A strange and almost embarrassing urge to compare the mundane with the disabled splashes over me and I realize that Warhol has nothing to do with this exhibition. What matters is the artists — true outsiders in many respects — creating works that you and I, caught up in the stepping over of detritus, could never fathom. Opening reception is June 29 at the University Galleries on Sycamore Street, Downtown. The exhibition runs through Aug. 31. 513-867-5932. (Laura James)

Hot Faade: Sixth Street Garage
Construction of Fifth Third Bank's new Sixth Street façade is just beginning. Polish born, Cleveland-based artist and Op-Art master Julian Stanczak has designed an amazing and dizzying plan for the aesthetic bettering of an ordinary cement parking garage: a series of 356 vertical aluminum tubes, in varying colors, with an additional 200 tubes also in various colors set at diagonals. In the end, the effect will be an Op-Art mural that runs the entire city block from Walnut to Vine streets. The precise arrangement of the tubes causes optical illusions for passers-by, as the colors shift and change according to your position on the street, whether walking or driving past or entering the Contemporary Arts Center across the street. Join the CAC to celebrate Stanczak — a former Art Academy of Cincinnati teacher — and his soon-to-be-legendary contribution to our city. Cynthia Goodman curated a Stanczak exhibition for the CAC that opens Aug. 3 and runs through winter 2008, when the Fifth Third mural enters completion. 513-345-8400. (Laura James)

Hot Water: Paddlefest
Go get your dingy/canoe/ kayak, paddles and a life vest and join other water-lovers for the sixth annual Ohio River Way Paddlefest. About 1,400 paddlers from serious to fun-loving will race or just meander the barge-free stretch of water between Four Seasons Marina (4609 Kellogg Ave.) and Serpentine Wall (Yeatman's Cove) July 6-7. The first night has a kick-off party at Four Seasons with live music, canoe/kayak lessons, a silent auction, paddlers' yard sale and educational programs for all ages. On Saturday the first race starts at 7:50 a.m. Don't want to get up that early? Camp overnight for a small fee. All Paddlefest proceeds go to develop the Ohio River Water Trail and construct more segments of the Ohio River Hike and Bike Trail. Online registration closes June 30. or 513-588-6936. (Margo Pierce)

Hot Opera: Nixon Visits China
Nixon in China became as much a piece of history as the events presented onstage and established composer John Adams as a musical phenom. In the 20 years since its premiere, the opera has been staged throughout the world and finally comes to Cincinnati Opera in a co-production by Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera and Chicago Opera Theatre. Don't be put off by Nixon being a contemporary work — the score is brilliantly effective and the minimalism brightly colored and accessible. There are allusions to Latin American dance music, 1940s film scores and a reliable foxtrot. Thomas Hammons, who portrayed Kissinger in the original cast, reprises the role, "this time with no padding and no bald pate." Robert Orth, who sang Owen Hart in the 2002 production of Dead Man Walking, is Nixon and CCM grad Mark Panuccio is Mao Zedong. Video has a prominent role in the setting, framing the stage with monitors playing actual footage of Nixon, Mao and Zhou Enlai. 8 p.m. July 12 and 14 at Music Hall. 513-241-2742. (Anne Arenstein)

Hot Local CD: Wussy
After the deserved but somewhat unexpected success of their last album, fans of Cincinnati Indie Rock foursome Wussy have some high expectations for their next one. Legendary music critic Robert Christgau is one of those fans — he gave the band's 2005 debut, Funeral Dress, a 4-out-of-5 star rating, so you know he's been checking his mail slot regularly. After exploring other label options, the group re-upped with Shake It Records for their still-untitled second album, which is being released nationally Aug. 28. The band isn't sitting on their hands in the meantime. While still tweaking the new album, Wussy will do some touring, including a date at Twangfest in St. Louis in early June. If you can't wait 'til August to get some Wussy, you can catch them at Northside Tavern June 29, when they play the CD release party for another hotly anticipated sophomore release — If We Survive This Rapture by Wake the Bear (aka Scott Cunningham, formerly of local faves Promenade). (Mike Breen)

Hot Theater: Radiant Baby
Even if you don't know who Keith Haring was, you'll recognize his images and graffiti-inspired pop art from the 1980s. His particular icon, the "radiant baby," is also the name of a brand-new musical based on his life. The show had its world premiere at New York's Public Theater in 2003, and it's had just one performance since then. New Stage Collective, the hottest new theater in Cincinnati (with a new performance space at 1140 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine) is giving Radiant Baby its third staging. Haring, who was catapulted to international stardom during his brief life (he died of AIDS at the age of 30 in 1990), is portrayed in a very contemporary piece of musical theater that uses Rock, Punk and Pop music. Director Alan Patrick Kenny has a way with these works — he was the music director for Know Theatre's award-winning stagings of tick, tick ... BOOM! and See What I Wanna See. He says Radiant Baby is "a show about life force." You can expect dynamic work from Kenny and CCM grad Adam Standley, playing the lead role in this production, June 21-July 14. or 513-621-3700. (Rick Pender)

Hot Getaway: Holiday World
We're lucky to have a first-class amusement park right in our own backyard, but every now and then comes a hankering for a different flavor. What's a body to do? Go west to Santa Claus, Ind., and check out Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, America's oldest "theme" park. Originally opened as Santa Claus Land (there's your theme) in 1946, the park added Fourth of July and Halloween in 1984 and subsequently changed its name. In 2006 the Thanksgiving section opened, featuring The Voyage, an awesome wooden coaster designed right here in Cincinnati. Though the park sticks closely to its family-friendly theme, this thrill ride really pushes the envelope and rivals The Beast (Voyage is actually taller and slightly faster, though a tad shorter in length). Highly recommended. The park is roughly a three-hour drive from here. 812-937-4401. (P.F. Wilson)

Hot Bods: Nude Recreation Week
We're not living in the tropics, but come summer time it can get awfully hot around here. Ever wonder what would it be like to just take off all your clothes and run around nekkid? You can find out during one of several open houses offered by Paradise Gardens, the area's family nudist resort. And they do stress "family," as in everyone is on their best behavior. Held monthly, the summer open house dates are June 22-23, July 21-22 and Aug. 18-19. A special open house will be held July 9 to help kick off National Nude Recreation Week. "Visitors may tour Paradise Gardens without being nude," according to Dave, who manages Paradise Gardens without a last name. You soon might feel funny being one of the few that aren't in your birthday suit, however; and when you realize that sex isn't the reason people are naked, your inhibitions will likely dwindle. (P.F. Wilson)

Hot Road: World´s Longest Yard Sale
Yard sales start with the realization that one has amassed too much crap and, after a long day haggling in the hot sun, usually yield just enough money to go out and replenish that dwindling crap supply. Well, that's kind of the idea behind the World's Longest Yard Sale, only it takes off at an astonishingly bigger and better-conceived pace than most suburban affairs. The Aug. 2-5 sale — of importance to you because a length of it runs right through MainStrasse Village in Covington — draws "hundreds of thousands of folks each year for a fun-filled event spanning 630 miles and five states," according to its Web site ( Check out the site if you're interested in hawking your own wares. If you're more into browsing, don those comfortable flip-flops and bring plenty of cash, but remember: If you don't dicker, you don't want it enough! 859-491-0458. (Hannah Roberts)

Hot Feats: Cloven Hoof Theatre
In an era saturated with reality TV shows and bloated media coverage on the tube and YouTube, it feels good to step back in time. Cloven Hoof Theatre transports us back to a bygone world of real entertainment with classic variety show acts — think sword-swallowing, fire-eating and -dancing, juggling, burlesque, vaudeville and other sideshow antics performed by talents from near and far. The group's inaugural show June 16 at The Mockbee in beautiful Brighton will feature New York City-based Bindlestiff Family Cirkus alongside the local ladies of Barnyard Burlesque (pictured), who will be moving to the eclectic, calliope-carnival-gone-mad grooves of The Goombas. Expect extravagant visuals from Barnyard's deliciously over-the-top garb to J. Cobb's (literally) larger-than-life paintings to other ostentatious ornamentation in performances. Striving for a comfortable, social atmosphere means that while the production is decidedly theatrical, the seating is not. Upcoming shows — monthly at first, then Cloven Hoof hopes to increase frequency — are rumored to present, among other daring feats, whip artistry. Take a taste of Cloven Hoof's decadent contemporary play on olde tyme-flavored acts that can be a little bit dangerous. Don't try this at home. Info at (Julie Mullins)

Hot Plates: Jardin Tapas Bar
One question always tripped me up: Where the heck do you get tapas in this town? Now I have the answer: Jardin Spanish Wine and Tapas Bar in Over-the-Rhine (208 E. 12th St.). The restaurant, a joint venture between Vinyl owners Michael Spalding and Roula David and Neon's owner Maureen Godshall, opens in June in the space that once housed Neon's, one of the hottest nightspots in Main Street's heyday. Diners will be able to choose from approximately 200 European, American, Chilean and Argentinean wines while they nibble from a menu designed to maximize their choices. Spalding says it'll be similar to a sushi menu, where you choose the items you want. (Prices will range from $1 to $18.) On the terrace, patrons can chow down on grilled skewered meats and cheeses and imbibe from the sangria and mojito bars. International bands will be scheduled five nights a week, and eventually the second floor will be developed into a wine school where patrons can go for classes, tastings and winemaker dinners. (Lora Arduser)

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