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There’s no perfect formula for connecting artists and audiences. But if there were one, the secret ingredient that distinguishes nuisance from ....noise would probably be the venue itself. Maybe that’s why serious musicians and their faithful followers are driving in droves to a former furniture store out in Newark for craft beer and cocktails before [...]
J.R. McMillan

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There’s no perfect formula for connecting artists and audiences. But if there were one, the secret ingredient that distinguishes nuisance from ….noise would probably be the venue itself.

Maybe that’s why serious musicians and their faithful followers are driving in droves to a former furniture store out in Newark for craft beer and cocktails before settling in for shows that defy expectations at any decibel.

Unlike an aging arena or basement bar, Thirty One West was built for music back in the days when Newark was known as “Little Chicago” for its robust theater scene. But after decades of decline, the satellite city has been torn between playing second fiddle to a tempting metropolis just over the horizon or forging its own destination identity. The dance hall days are long gone, save this one last ballroom that happened to find a second life as a low-frills furniture store waiting to be rediscovered and reinvented.

“During construction, we did a series called the Ballroom Revival Sessions. We wanted to share with folks where we were in the process and were eager to have music in the space and hear how it sounded,” explained Tom Atha, champion of Newark’s own larger revival and a familiar face for anyone who’s ever been to Thirty One West.

The Church Street “project” (as it was locally known) included a barbeque joint, a yoga studio, a play café, and an art space anchored by Atha’s alma mater, Denison University. But the second-story live concert venue and street-level bar are the jewels in this downtown crown of urban renewal.

It didn’t take long for word to get out that there was acoustic street cred in their quirky old ballroom with a bar in both the basement and the balcony (ironically replicating the feel of a house show in a space that once sold couches and loveseats). Perhaps that’s why acts that could play anywhere are reconnecting with their roots in a venue that actually brings artists and audiences together outside the outerbelt.

“For me, the biggest part of choosing a venue is whether the audience can hear the show as we intend it. You don’t want it loud, and reverberant, and noisy. I really prefer to have a listening environment,” revealed Steven Page, who recently played his first gig at Thirty One West. The fearless former front man for Barenaked Ladies knows what makes a room and an audience both hum. “I’m pretty aware of the fact that my audience isn’t 22 anymore. They’re not going to want to come see me and stand on a concrete floor for five hours.”

Many musicians often have only rudimentary information about a venue before playing there for the first time—city and capacity might be it. Bookers and promoters schedule the shows. One delivers the talent, the other the audience. But when artists are impressed by the right place, or turned off, everyone tends to hear about it.

“Lots of artists compare notes, especially the horror stories. But if there’s a new venue opening up in town, or one that’s developing a new reputation, you automatically share those experiences with other musicians,” Page noted. “I’ll go to my agent and say I really want to play there again—and that helps get more acts booked there as well.”

Every venue has a different vibe, and Thirty One West seems to occupy the fabled Goldilocks zone right in the middle, large enough to achieve critical mass, yet small enough for the shared experience not to get lost.

“If a room is acoustically dead, some songs won’t have the same kind of expansive feeling they would in a more lively room. And if a venue is really noisy, it’s harder for us to hear ourselves onstage. If notes go out and wash around the room, we may have to choose songs that require less precision. The strokes are broader,” Page explained. “Sometimes we’ll play in a place that’s really ornate, and you can tell an audience is intimidated by that. They aren’t as expressive right off the bat, so you have to work a little harder for them to feel less self-conscious, let go, and enjoy the show. I like those challenges. Honestly, I like having to work for every bit of applause.”

This is where Thirty One West really ups the ante for concert venues, and is a credible threat for the predictable digs folks are used to in Columbus. Techs know the room, so artists are also at ease, tuning the whole hall like one giant instrument instead of turning everything up to 11 and hoping for the best.

“The folks at Thirty One West told us it was the first time for a lot of people there at the show, so hopefully connecting with a new clientele will help build that core audience. For us, the staff and crew were great, easy to work with, from the monitors to the PAs. They were helpful and hands on and really knew how to work their equipment,” Page revealed. “That’s a big difference.”

Even so, old habits are tough to break with some tours that tend to look past smaller shows or locales, despite the increased attention from performers and their patrons.

“It could be daunting initially to attract acts that are used to playing right in Columbus. It’s a beautiful building, aesthetically and acoustically. That’s what’s going to win them over. It’s such a great listening room—without being precious about it,” Page opined. “I feel I have to earn people’s quiet. But if it’s a talky room, maybe it’s because audiences can’t hear us as well. Everyone here was relaxed, enthusiastic, and into the show. That’s what the right venue can do. It’s not just the building; it’s the audience it attracts.”

However, the ballroom is only part of what distinguishes Thirty One West from your typical concert hall. It’s about building that elusive connection that doesn’t fade away after the encore.

“We started the 31 Club when we launched, which is our $100 membership….We do member appreciation shows, there are discounts on our bar and our merch, we open access to ticket sales early, and give away tickets,” Atha explained. “This past year, we extended our membership to include a Season Pass at a $500 level. That also includes two general admission tickets to every show for the calendar year.”

Imagine buying concert tickets like Netflix. Instead of only going to see the bands you know, you’re more likely to discover new ones—and that’s kind of the point.

“Folks were coming out to shows they never would have otherwise. If we have enough members who do that, we can take bigger risks as a music venue, and do a better job curating, if we know there is a core audience to support it,” Atha said.

For details on upcoming shows at Thirty One West, or to see their Ballroom Revival Sessions, visit thirtyone-west.com

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People

Former OSU player starts career as Columbus Firefighter

614now Staff

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Former Buckeye and New Orleans Saints running back running back Antonio Pittman is trading the pads and helmet of the gridiron for a fire hose and a...different helmet in his new career, according to ABC6.

https://twitter.com/mariawsyx6/status/1228415062051819520?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fabc6onyourside.com%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fformer-ohio-state-nfl-running-back-opens-new-chapter-as-a-columbus-firefighter

Having recently graduated from the Columbus Fire Academy, Pittman is now on his first week on the job at fire station 12 on the city's west side.

A native of Akron, Pittman played for Ohio State from 2004 to 2006, and was part of the number 1 ranked team that defeated number 2 Michigan 42-39 in the "Game of the Century."

Pittman was then drafted by the New Orleans Saints, but was forced to retire from the NFL following a persistent knee injury.

"My goal was just to play football and honestly, I did that. And the dream was to have a ten-year career and to retire at 32 years old and be off in the sunset and just living comfortably. But you know, plans change and in life, you have to adapt to the change," Pittman told ABC6.

"My goal was to one day give back to a community, a city that's given me so much. A city that changed my whole outlook on life as a kid growing up in Akron."

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People

The Rest Is History: Couples in Columbus share their stories of falling in love

Mitch Hooper

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Illustration by Sarah Moore

If Hollywood would ever pick up a romantic comedy about a couple falling in love in Columbus, how would it look? Would it be an epic story ending in an intimate proposal on the Scioto Mile, or two strangers bumping into each other at the Varsity Club on game day?

Funny enough, both are very plausible.

This month, we wanted to answer the question: what do love stories in Columbus look like? And what we found is sometimes love stories don’t happen in Columbus; instead they happen because of Columbus. While some folks were high school sweethearts who rekindled the flame, others struck up conversation in countries far away just because they shared the same ZIP code. In part, where you’re from shapes who you are, and for these couples, the capital city holds a special spot in their hearts. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Rachel Grauer and Aaron Guilkey

Aaron and I first met in the early 2000s at Eli Pinney Elementary in Dublin. He was my first boyfriend in fourth grade and broke my heart on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger, for the young folk). We didn’t speak a word to each other all of high school, thank you high school social hierarchy. I went on to OU and he to OSU. We reconnected after college while on a bar crawl in the Short North and the rest is history. We are getting married September 2020!

Lauren Sheridan and David Tripp

All of this is true: We met at a Clippers baseball game. It was a team outing for work. I worked with his mom and she was setting us up. This story is meant to be a complete disaster. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Our first o cial date was at 16-Bit, where we would take our engagement pictures over two years later. He lived in Arizona for 10 years before moving back to Columbus in 2016. It’s been fun reintroducing him to the city, especially our food and beer scene. I can’t imagine having these adventures with anyone else.

Misty and Erin Dickinson

We met at Rendezvous Hair Salon, where she is a hairstylist. Then we spent time together at Drauma at the Bluestone, followed by a night out for a Nina West show at Axis complete with dinner at Union and after party drinks at Macs. We were with my friends and I o ered to walk her to her car which had been towed because, well, Columbus. I stayed with her until we finally found her car at 3 a.m. We started hanging out a lot after that while we both swore we were “just friends”! Almost five years later and we are back in Columbus after a two year move to Tampa. We married (twice, but the story will be way over 100 words! Second time at LaNavona), and have a thousand Columbus stories. Columbus is our home. The place we love and always come back to. There is no place like it.

Kellie Anne and Carl Rainey

I moved to Columbus from LA in 2014 and met my now-husband a month after the move. We found out quickly that we were both California sports fans and went on our first date on Halloween. Lakers vs. Clippers was on the TV at the bar, so we made a bet and the loser had to pick up the tab. My Clippers beat his Lakers, so he had to pay up. We’ve been inseparable ever since. We got married March 23, 2019, and I’m so happy to call Columbus my forever home now!

Daniel Custer and Jenny Harris

I met Jenny on a wine cruise in Santorini, Greece. I saw her from across the pier before we boarded and knew I wanted to chat her up—she was gorgeous. She and her friends sat by me on the catamaran and we began telling one another where we were from. When it got to Jenny, she said she was from Columbus. I said, “Where?!” and she said “Grandview!” We spent the rest of the weekend together, along with the past three years.

Brittany and Ethan Monk

We met as employees at Scioto Country Club in UA. He was a broke server and I was a broke student working as a hostess. We spent many holidays away from family but with each other. We are complete opposites that were impossibly attracted to one another. We married and have 2 children. Still opposites—I work in clinical research and he is a musician and stay-at-home dad. We both have made Columbus our home!

Nicole Erdeljac and Andrew Crowell

We spent the day (separately) at the 2019 Memorial Tournament and were hanging out at the Bogey Inn afterwards. He was standing at the bar and I was behind him, waiting to be served. His friend kept accidentally hitting my shoulder while trying to reach over me to get his attention. I was visibly annoyed when he asked me to tap him. But, I did. We spent the rest of the night dancing to the live band and had our first date a week later at the Columbus Arts Fest, once again, dancing to the live sounds of Anderson East. The rest is history!

Tracie Lynn and Adam Douglas Keller

It was one month to the day after my mother had lost her battle to cancer in 2007. It was one of my favorite nights for being out in Columbus—Red, White, and Boom. After my sister’s and my friend’s group persistently encouraged us to go out for fireworks and time with friends, we agreed. We needed something light and fun. What could possibly come of that?

I’ll never forget the moment that I made eye contact with this handsome, tall and smiling man. He had happened to be out with a mutual friend of our group. We made small talk, listened to live bands, and, well—the rest is history. Nearly 13 years later, we now have two great kids, two dogs, and a rich, full life in Columbus. This is the city we met in, and the one we made a life in. I couldn’t ask for a better love story.

Rebecca Scha er and Peter Yeager

We met at Ledo’s, the first bar on our OSU senior bar crawl list. Flash forward 12 hours later at World of Beer, we bumped into each other again and he handed me a raw russet potato with his name and number written on it in Sharpie. Super weird and random but it did the trick. I called him my soul mate to his face that night. Last winter he took me around town. We stopped at both those bars, reminiscing about our time together. He asked me to be his wife in the middle of the same World of Beer where he gave me that first potato, hiding the ring in a large toy Mrs. Potato head. There’s no other way I would have liked the beginning of our story to go.

Victoria and Ryan Metzinger

I met my amazing husband in Columbus on a blind date set up by mutual friends (sounds very 1995, but it was actually 2011). He suggested a casual drink at Grandview Cafe and I upped the ante for dinner at Third & Hollywood. We continued to Spagio and ended at Grandview Cafe and the rest is history! Now, with two beautiful boys, our WiFi network will always be labeled “Third and Hollywood” as an ode to the perfect setting for a first date. We also visit the restaurant every year on our anniversary and it will never lose its luster.

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Arts & Culture

Elijah Banks brings his worldview back to Columbus through new album

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Near the end of “Tunes in My Room,” a song by local rapper Elijah Banks, samples of a affirmations from social media personality Amber Wagner kick in. “You are still surrounded by an abundance of love, you have joy around you, God is with you,” Wagner passionately evokes. “You gon’ be alright.” Though Banks proclaims sophomore album Spin as a love story, much like Wagner’s declaration, through nine tracks filled with soulful aptitude, Banks finds that self-love is the ultimate destination.

“On my first album [Progress, Not Perfection], I wanted to show people all the different routes that I could take,” Banks said. “Over time, I’ve realized that my true roots lie in what makes people feel good, [which is] self-love; that’s what this album is about. When you start loving yourself, you are forced to recognize and notice what isn’t for you.”

Born into a military family, Banks drew different perspectives of music through his upbringing in Germany, New Jersey and Atlanta before ultimately settling in Ohio. Being in the midst of trap-rap culture during his time in Atlanta, he says that if you’re looking for hollow autotuned rap, Spin probably won’t be the ideal soundscape. In fact, not fitting into mainstream standards is helping Banks weed out who his music isn’t for.

“At first, I wanted to aim for a more pop-driven record that could get lots of spins on radio and push myself out more in a regional manner,” he said. “Each song showcases a situation right before it spins out of control.”

Yet, Spin doesn’t sound as chaotic as Banks seems to lead on. In fact, it’s quite relatable, with intricate spoken word amidst a gentle piano (“Kev’s Interlude”), the all-too- common frustrations of working a full-time gig (“4 AM”), and anxiously wading through mall crowds (“Zooming Thru”). With an emotive songwriting process, Banks shares that his ideas are often spur-of-the-moment and generally based on production.

“Sometimes I’ll roll through 20 to 30 beats a day until I find one that matches my mood. Once I choose the beat that I like, I generally work on the rhythm and tones that I want to get across. Then, the focus on the lyrics comes,” Banks says. “I try to talk through relatable subjects with a pop culture modern twist. If you listen to “Zooming Thru,” the song is about my card getting declined at a high fashion store. I like to play with eye catching themes and turn them into great songs.”

While a remainder of songs that didn’t make the cut on Spin will be featured on an impending project titled Elijah Banks & Friends, the rapper values collaborating with fellow Columbus-based artists to stay grounded. Part of 14-member collective Rawest4mation, a group of artists that uplift community arts culture, Banks aspires to one day run an indie label.

With a structural team in place, Banks credits Spin executive producer Kevin Kesicki with piano instrumentation and the cohesive flow of the album, alongside DJ B Redi, Banks’ official DJ. With plans of one day throwing niche cultural events, Banks hopes to eventually test his walk on the runway, having previously modeled for local streetwear brand Good Behavior. Nearly two years after making a splash at Breakaway Festival, Banks is preparing to showcase his diverse instrumentation and creative material at his next show on Valentine’s Day in New York City, backed by his band The Balance. Though his music is leading Banks to spaces outside of Columbus, he says that these performances would be nearly impossible without hometown support.

“I asked myself at the end of last year what [2020] holds for me,” he said. “Many people say [Columbus doesn’t] have talent but honestly, I truly believe you have everything you need for the things to bubble, minus one thing: We need to cross support and take our consumers seriously.”

Though 2020 has just started, with an intentional feel-good sound on Spin, Banks has his sights set on finishing the year more consistent than he’s begun. It’ll be exciting to hear.

Elijah Banks’ music is available on Spotify. Follow him on Twitter @elijahwonbanks and Instagram @elijahbanksmusic.

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