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A Podcast Awakens

Not so long ago (2014), in a city not terribly far away (New Albany), two best friends are up late, mashing buttons on controllers, getting drunk, and yukking it up. Little did they know that this interaction on one chilly January evening would eventually lead to a raving community of fans totalling up around 150 [...]
Danny Hamen

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Not so long ago (2014), in a city not terribly far away (New Albany), two best friends are up late, mashing buttons on controllers, getting drunk, and yukking it up.

Little did they know that this interaction on one chilly January evening would eventually lead to a raving community of fans totalling up around 150 thousand downloads over the course of 165 podcast episodes.

While this might not seem like a fitting genesis story to match the galactic grandeur of their source material, this is the moment when Cody Boyce (aka Commander Cody) and Paul Melton (aka Mopar) knew that they had unique chemistry.

“[Rogue Squadron Podcast] started as an accident,” chuckled Melton. “We were living in New Albany and I was visiting Cody playing Battlefield 4. We were loving the game, screaming at each other, getting triggered—just having a blast of it. It got to a point where we were laughing so hard we were crying. I remember saying, ‘Dude, we should just record this.’ ”

It just so happened that Boyce has an audio engineering background and owned a myriad of sound equipment that he kept in his spare bedroom. So, the two old friends got drunk and went to work.

“It got to a point where we were laughing so hard we were crying. I remember saying, ‘Dude, we should just record this.”

“I had just gotten turned on to the Joe Rogan experience,” said Boyce. “I remember thinking that we do the same thing he does, except instead of talking about drugs and UFC, we talk about beer and Star Wars. So, we miked ourselves up and three hours later, we had our pilot episode.”

Rogue Squadron, while entertaining, debuted with a bit of an identity crisis. If anything, it was more an onslaught of stream-of-consciousness style of nerdom ranging from film to television to video games. Boyce explains that it was merely coincidental that a recurring commonality in their content happened to be Star Wars and craft beer. But despite their lack of structure, austere style, and crawling three hour runtime, their cutting commentary was infectious, gaining them a modest handful of dedicated listeners.

“It was a cool feeling at first when we put something out there and we saw, like, three listens—that someone out there was actively clicking on our podcast to give it their attention,” said Melton. “About a year in, we began to implement a structure and committed to a once-a-week schedule, and that’s when the podcast really started to take off and people started to reach out.”

A few of the recurring staples in their now hour-long podcast is a craft beer review, a “guess that scene” segment, and a revolving door of special guests from around to country, ranging from fellow podcasters to YouTube celebs.

“We unintentionally created this community,” said Boyce. “Even our fans reach out to other listeners to yell at each other and develop friendships. It gets out of hand in a good way—you have a guy in Germany who is yelling at guy in Australia about Rogue One on our forum. It’s abso-lutely crazy.” Since its inception, the team has moved their studio into the Idea Foundry in Franklinton: a tiny sound studio ornamented with collectible figurines, sci-fi posters, and a record player spinning Zeppelin III. The duo hands me a Quadrahopic IPA (rated 3 stars) from Land Grant Brewing.

“We unintentionally created this community. Even our fans reach out to other listeners to yell at each other and develop friendships.”

There is a special symbiotic relationship between the Rogue Squadron podcast and local breweries, pairing with the likes of Land Grand and Wolf’s Ridge, among others, to create collaboration brews to serve at their events (complete with puntastic names like The Last Red-Eye). And listeners from all around the world tune in weekly and learn about the nuances of Columbus craft beer.

And that, to me, is pretty damn cool.

“Columbus is such a supporting community for creatives,” said Boyce. “I never would have thought that I could walk into Land Grant and say, ‘Hey, you guys wanna do a Star Wars beer?’ and they are just immediately into it. Same goes for Gateway Film center, who hosted our first event with open arms.”

But at its core, the duo just wanted a platform to nerd out about Star Wars—the living and breathing universe that they have sunk their teeth into since they were old enough to say Tatooine. Podcasts are about finding a hyperspecialized niche and forming a community around it.

“There is an opportunity for every person on earth to enjoy a bit of Star Wars,” said Melton. “You can get enjoyment whether you are three years old, just enjoying big bad Vader beating someone up, or a grown-ass man enjoying the true spiritual aspect of the force. My short answer to why is Star Wars so good? Because it’s not Star Trek.”

For more information about Rogue One Squadron and to download every episode, visit roguesquadronpodcast.com

What local beer would these characters drink?

Luke Skywalker: Photon from Actual Brewing. Something real light. He seems like too much of a baby to enjoy a strong craft beer.

Darth Vader: Hmm, absolutely something dark–I’d say the Yub Nub Imperial Stout from Wolf’s Ridge.

Han Solo: Han would probably rock an IPA. Or maybe like a brown ale. Let’s go with Franklinton Pub Ale from Land Grant.

Princess Leia: She’s doing something citrusy. Or yeah, probably Thunderlips IPA from Columbus Brewing Company because she’s got a mouth on her. She’s talking shit to everyone.

If you could get hammered with any Star Wars character, who would it be and why?

Melton: If I am looking to just chill in a dive bar, I would choose Obi Wan-Kenobi. He’s been through so much shit that I would just love to pick his brain and hear him talk. But if I am looking to cause some debauchery, I am definitely going with Episode 3 Anakin. He’s going to get in a bar fight and I’ll be cheering in the corner.

Boyce: I would go out with Chewbacca because he likes to have a good time, and if anyone wants to talk smack, he can throw down. Also I’d get to cuddle with him after.

What character would you least want to share a jail cell with?

Melton: C3PO because he wouldn’t shut the hell up! “The chances of us getting out of this jail cell is 3.24 perce—…” He would just keep going and going.

Boyce: Jar Jar Binks. He just looks like he smells like bad seafood. He’d probably get his tongue stuck in the door and would just mumble and drool everywhere.

Which Star Wars character is most likely to throw their life away due to alcohol abuse?

I feel like Episode 3 Anakin is in a very weird place. That and Watto. I feel like they would go out together and cause some trouble.

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What’s Open: Venues slowly start to roll out live music

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When it was announced in mid-May that wedding venues and banquet halls would reopen at the beginning of June, the next question became: When will music venues be next?

Although the rollout has been slow and will be gradual, Columbus venues and attractions that regularly house live music are making their comeback. When the high-spirited, good-feeling cover band Popgun graced the Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen on May 27, many people’s greatest fears of being robbed of live music for the rest of the year were eased maybe a little.

The only way for us to get currently get down to live music is to sit down, which is a fair trade-off given the times.

Check out a few Columbus venues that are set to reopen or have reopened under strict coronavirus guidelines.

  • The Forum Columbus -- The Forum welcomed back live music on May 29 with a tabled RSVP DJ showcase. For this event, guests were required to come in groups of no more than 10, be seated six feet apart from other groups, and remain seated unless you have to use the restroom. There are no future events planned as of this publishing.
  • Otherworld  -- The immersive art installation that took Columbus by storm in 2019 is set to return on June 11, according to the venue’s webpage. Otherworld will be operating at a capacity of one visitor per 160 square feet, or around 20 percent of the regular admittance. It’s unclear when the next time Otherworld will host live music, but this is a giant step in the right direction in terms of venue re-openings.
  • South Drive-In -- It’s not a venue in Columbus that traditionally holds music, but it’s become one and may stay one for the time being. Viral DJ Marc Rebillet will be bringing his sold-out drive-in show to the South Drive-In on June 14. With these types of performances popping up all around the country and the South Drive-In owner getting plenty of event requests, we will hopefully be seeing more shows of this nature in the warmer months.
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Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together

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Photo by John Thorne

Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Video by John Thorne

 

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.

 

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Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus

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The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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