The National isn’t the only gang of local-boys-done-good doing a hometown show next Sunday (May 16). As the Indie music darlings are conjuring moody, darkly hued atmospherics inside historic Music Hall for Sunday night’s MusicNow fest finale, the Rock & Roll acrobats of Warner Bros./Sire Records’ Foxy Shazam will be just a few blocks away bouncing their bodies and theatrical Prog Punk sounds off of the walls inside The Mockbee. Foxy’s appearance isn’t part of the band’s unrelenting tour itinerary. It’s for a cause that could help Cincinnati artists and the efforts to revitalize Over-the-Rhine by converting an abandoned, dilapidated West End church into a new concert venue/music school/arts center.—-
The ambitious project was initiated in a very au courant (yet still improbable) manner. As per its mission to preserve Over-the-Rhine’s historic buildings and help rejuvenate the neighborhood, the organization OTR A.D.O.P.T. posted a Craigslist ad to solicit interest from anyone willing to “adopt” the historic First German Reformed Church on Freeman Avenue. Built over 150 years ago, the org sought people to rescue the church from further deterioration or potential demolition by renovating the building and putting the space to good use.
As it happens, Foxy Shazam keyboardist Sky White and friends Teddy Aitkins (of the bands Javelin Dance and Automagik) and Manny Hernandez were dreaming of creating a kind of arts hub that would host live music, a studio and exhibit space for artists and a music education center for young people, plus a possible restaurant and other community- and artist-friendly features.
The entrepreneurial trio found the space to be a perfect fit for their vision. The three aren’t just idealistic dreamers who smoked some pot and came up with an unrealistic plan for an arts utopia. Hernandez and Aitkins — who attended college together in Pittsburgh — had rehabbed several buildings and homes in the past, while White’s extensive travels and experience with Foxy Shazam have helped him build knowledge and contacts useful for running a music venue.
The three men also have experience working together to restore and improve a local landmark. The trio recently took over, refurbished and reopened Northside vintage clothing shop Casablanca Vintage, which they reportedly hope to soon enhance with products from local designers, merch from local bands, a live music stage and other similar community-oriented additions.
OTR A.D.O.P.T. had found their church’s new parents. With plans in place, a slew of volunteers have jumped on board to help, including the UC Preservation Action Network and others who believe in the mission and have volunteered support for everything from clean-up efforts (a huge task considering the decades of neglect) to construction. Keep an eye on the Church's Facebook page here for future volunteer opportunities, benefits and developments.
Foxy Shazam and Automagik (along with Vaudeville Freud) will provide the music for the May 15 benefit show at The Mockbee, which will start at 8 p.m. Admission is a $10 donation.
Foxy Shazam recently posted a new live video for its song “Bombs Away,” which is introduced by frontman Eric Nally in his typical Dada-stage-banter style: “Me and Rob Zombie wrote this next song going 900 miles an hour in the back of a pick-up truck.” Enjoy: