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Waltz and Roll

While their friend Marty Scorcese looked on—and in—The Band created quite possibly the greatest concert film of all time. James Wooster and his friends took one night of homage at little old Rambling House in SoHud and have turned it into one of the city’s greatest rock and roll tributes. The Last Waltz is starts [...]
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While their friend Marty Scorcese looked on—and in—The Band created quite possibly the greatest concert film of all time.

James Wooster and his friends took one night of homage at little old Rambling House in SoHud and have turned it into one of the city’s greatest rock and roll tributes.

The Last Waltz is starts anew this month, the fifth straight year for the tribute in Columbus—the second time at the historic Newport Music Hall. 

And just like the members of The Band, the crew backing Bob Dylan’s electric sojourn and perhaps the unknown authors of the American genre, Wooster and his 10-person, 12-guest crew crew have quietly amassed an impressive oeuvre—one that’s required to recreate the spectacle and spectrum of The Band’s final concert, Thanksgiving Day 1976, first revealed to the rest of the music world’s 1978 Scorcese film.

In the 40 years since The Band’s full lineup last Drove Old Dixie Down, their contribution and presence to music culture still hasn’t quite peaked. Here’s hoping Wooster and his crew still have plenty of more years left to ramble.

Isn’t weird having an event that reoccurs every year, in honor of something that was signaling an end?

Huh, I’ve never thought of it that way! I suppose it is weird, I honestly never think about that intention for it to be the finale. Maybe because almost all the members of The Band continued to play as “The Band” for quite a few years after The Last Waltz. It was certainly the end of a significant chapter of The Band.

Do you think The Band is the most famous band in the history or rock and roll to not be “Uber famous?”

I would agree that some of their songs are more famous than The Band. More people probably can sing at least a verse of “The Weight” than can recognize them from a picture. They had the unique lack of a designated lead singer, which takes some of the spotlight off of the celebrity aspect of a band.

How did this actually come together? And I don’t mean, how did you all know the songs, but I mean a production of this magnitude takes some work.

It started off as a very modest attempt and we’ve built on it with each year. Year One, we had no horn section, only a couple guests, and we omitted a bunch of songs. Year Two, we added the horn section, and with each year at least a song or two have been added to the set, still all in the Last Waltz cannon. Thankfully there’s a lot of material there to pull from that isn’t in the film. I’ve also been fortunate that for the third year we’ve partnered with QFM-96, which has allowed us to get the word out about the show to a larger audience in Central Ohio. They’ve been really cool to work with, totally hands off on the production side of things, and totally supportive of continuing this great event.

Quite a transition from Rambling House to the old Agora, huh? Does playing in a place like The Newport, with all of its history, add to this show, rather just playing it in a bar somewhere?

It absolutely does. Playing at The Newport is a thrill. Obviously it is a landmark, maybe even a beacon for maintaining some sliver of character on High Street. I couldn’t think of a better place to host this show. The show definitely benefits from the nostalgia of the building, and the memories that Columbus music fans bring with them from all the shows they have seen over the years.

It also adds some pressure to a very fun thing. I also thought that about the original: like, my god, you’re trying to enjoy your last concert ever, but it’s hard because you’re sitting in with Muddy Waters and Neil Young. Do you feel that way up there?

What’s funny about The Last Waltz is, as an actual concert, it was kind of a sloppy affair. The songs that featured the guests were mostly hastily rehearsed. It has a loose, “jam session” type feel to it. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to find out that Levon Helm had never heard “Dry Your Eyes” prior to Neil Diamond walking on stage that night. None of that really matters, what is important is that the spirit of the show is a celebration. It feels like a special occasion for us, to have 25 or so friends all gather in one place to play music together, it’s amazing.

In a tribute show, what’s the line between doing it your way, and how people may be familiar with the material or the movie? It’s a pretty tall order to ape essentially half the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

We definitely take pride in playing songs very similarly to how they were played in concert. I think half of the fun is nailing down all those small things. Many of our guests recite the on-stage banter that were said in concert. It is a lot of fun for me to “cast” the special guests. Columbus is deep with musicians and it’s often times difficult to include everything you want to.

What is it about this town that makes it such a great scene for tributes? Can you tell me some others you’ve been to in town that you love? Maybe it’s our perfectly crafted neutral Midwestern-ness that makes it a great canvass for imitation?

It’s a great scene for being a music fan and/or musician in Columbus. The musicians I know simply love to play music. Sometimes preparing for a tribute show can divert the attention you normally use for writing and practicing your own music, but who cares because it’s a hell of a good time! The Beatles Marathon is an amazing achievement in musicality, organization, and kind of a freak of nature when it comes to the physical aspect of performing. I’m amazed by that each time. I’ve enjoyed playing in a few tribute shows over the past couple years that only came to be because of a tragic loss. The David Bowie Tribute that I played in with The Bloodthirsty Virgins remains one of my favorite times playing music and I’m reminded of how emotional it can be.

Do you remember the first time you saw the film? Do you have parts that give you goosebumps no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

I have to give my lovely wife credit for introducing me to The Last Waltz. When we moved in together, she had both the DVD & the boxed set on CD. That year both of us were unable to come home for Thanksgiving (we were living in North East, Maryland at the time). However, a local band was playing a tribute to The Last Waltz nearby, so naturally we went. It was a lovely show and took some of the sting out from being away from our families. Without a doubt, my favorite moment in the show is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I don’t think there’s a better recording of that song anywhere else.

Have you been surprised by the ages of the people at the show?

Not yet! So far I don’t think anybody has been rolled in on a hospital bed. I am grateful that the music speaks both for the younger generations and of course for folks who lived in the hey-day of The Band. For the two years we played the show at Park Street Saloon we did have to creatively address the significant lack of seating, an effort spearheaded by the Baby Boomers of the family. #bringyourownpatiofurniture

In Tribute

Scorcese couldn’t have cast a better set of characters himself for The Last Waltz, and when it comes “casting” his own version, Wooster gets to have a little fun “casting” himself. Here are his favorite moments in the Last Waltz canon:

Van Morrison’s high kick in “Caravan,” expertly recreated by Cliff Starbuck

The soft horn section intro to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Ronnie Hawkins trotting around stage in “Who Do You Love.” Zach Whitney does a fantastic job bringing the fun energy to the stage!

Eric Clapton’s guitar strap failing; mid-solo his guitar strap slips off the guitar and he throws the solo over to Robbie, setting off a solo shootout.

Not the Scorcese film, but search “The Last Waltz Full Concert” on YouTube. It’s four-hour, 20-minute video. Black & white from one camera in the back of the house running continuously. So cool to get a different perspective on what the concert actually looked like.

 

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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 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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