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A couple weeks ago, we played a thank you reception for The Big Table. A man approached us afterwards and said he saw us perform six years ago. He said that he was in a car accident a few days after that performance, putting him into a weeklong coma, and that the first thing he [...]
Danny Hamen

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A couple weeks ago, we played a thank you reception for The Big Table. A man approached us afterwards and said he saw us perform six years ago. He said that he was in a car accident a few days after that performance, putting him into a weeklong coma, and that the first thing he remembered when he woke up was seeing Mojoflo, and that he had a damn good time.

Yeah, Mojoflo is kinda that good.

In many ways, this somewhat unbelievable anecdote epitomizes the raw power of Mojoflo’s music, a band that has become the apex of Columbus neo-funk—their trumpeting melodies and soft, delicately crooned hooks reminiscent of an art-damaged James Brown tinged with an Erykah Badu swoon. Their sound is luscious and smooth, funky and raucous, and, as demonstrated above, sincerely unforgettable.

“It’s high energy, party music, but there is newness to it. It’s all of our experiences as musicians coming together,” said vocalist Amber Knicole. “What we are doing is classic funk music filtered through the 2000s.”

And lately she’s been doing all that from roughly 20 feet off the stage.

It’s the latest installment from a band that prides itself on coma-busting concert presense: Knicole, on an aerial hoop, belting out notes with each hypnotic swing, mesmerizing the crowd with her funk-meets-performance-art.

“Yes our music is great, and you can throw the record on the player and have a good time,” Knicole said, “but I always wanted to be that band that you just have to see in person.”

And that is the case in many ways—Knicole is fierce and hypnotizing live, her voice booming off the same ceiling she’s dangling from.

“Performing live is such a communal experience,” said saxophonist Walter Kolhoff, one of the three core members of the group. “It is all about taking everybody in the room on a journey, and once we are finished everybody feels a little better—well, at least until you wake up in the morning.”

Or, after a weeklong slumber.

They have had plenty of time to perfect their presence—eight years to be exact—cutting their teeth in campus-adjacent dives five nights a week during their inception, a grueling task when splitting $100 seven or so ways (depending on the night) means doing it for more than the money. Nowadays, they have earned the right to call themselves career musicians.

“I was filling out a form for jury duty the other day, and when asked my occupation I answered ‘musician.’ That was a really weird feeling, to see how far we have come,” said Knicole. “It is extremely validating; Columbus has always shown us a lot of love. I think it something that we had to earn; nothing has ever been handed to us. We have never been a ‘what’s hot right now’ band. We have always been this slow burn.”

Lots of love is right—our dear readers voted Mojoflo Columbus’s Best Band of 2016. Their momentum has gained them a sponsorship with Gateway Film Center, who recently premiered their most recent music video, Crazy 4 U, this past February.

In many ways, this partnership demonstrates the full turnaround of the band, as one their first gigs was a street performance playing Christmas covers outside of the theater in the middle of the winter. Now, PromoWest has brought them into the fold, putting them up at the iconic Newport Music Hall December 2.

Talk about a serendipitous full circle.

“We did things just for the hell of it back then,” said Kolhoff. “Now we have schedules, debuts, and recording session. It is just crazy.”

In addition to the upcoming show, the band is working on their first full-length album, arguably one that has been eight years in the making.

“The point of doing this album is so that we could take everyone on a journey, “said Kolhohf. “Our EPs have always been little 30-minute tastes, but now we are finally ready to take people away. That is the existential side of things at least.”

Mojoflo will be debuting songs from their new album at Newport Music Hall December 2. Their first full-length record will drop next summer.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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