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Ebb and Flow

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

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas

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While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

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“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can’t wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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