Archives For Cincinnati

The origin of this trip traces back to the summer. I was at my favorite bar in my neighborhood and the cocktail waitress was telling me that she is from Cincinnati. Something Cincy is known for: having one of the (and this year, the) largest Oktoberfest celebration in the country.

I had never been to Cincinnati nor neighboring Kentucky and boy do I love me a seasonal beer.

So that night I went home and cross-checked the city’s Oktoberfest with the Reds schedule. Turns out the Pirates were in town. So I’d get to visit a new city, a new state, a new ballpark and take part in a huge Oktoberfest.

I added another new experience to my plate that summer night: the first time I booked a flight after a few drinks.

Eventually I scored a nice deal on a hotel downtown through Hotwire and before you know it, the weekend of September 17 was here. I flew in to Cincy’s airport on Saturday morning. Fun fact: the airport is across the river in Kentucky; about a 15 minute drive from downtown. After checking in, I went for a three-and-a-half mile jog around the city. I really enjoy the way Cincy is set-up: Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals), Great American Ballpark (Reds) and the city’s arena are all on the river. Cincinnati uses these centerpieces to develop both commercial and otherwise: there’s also a beautiful park with a couple of playgrounds right on the water.

Whenever I stay in a city for multiple nights I usually try and grocery shop. Even if I can’t buy perishables (my hotel room had a fridge but it wouldn’t get cold enough to keep anything from spoiling), I want bottled water and snacks because buying these from a store as opposed to a “market” downstairs usually will save you some money. I also enjoy checking out new grocery stores and my Cincy trip marked the first-ever visit to a Kroeger’s.

But on my way to Kroeger’s, I walked through Washington Park. Apparently every Saturday they hold an outdoor flea market there; tons of different merchants plus food and alcohol vendors. It was a pleasant and unexpected break in my schedule. I picked up a sweet vintage “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati” t-shirt, cracked open my first Rhinegeist Truth IPA and took a minute to enjoy the weather before continuing on with my trip to the store.

It’s tough for me to judge all of Kroger’s based on this particular visit because the store wasn’t in the best part of town (something my Uber driver warned me about but again, I like new experiences). That said, I still picked up a couple of items and headed back to my hotel.

I hit up Oktoberfest on Saturday and Sunday. It was good and I’m glad I attended but probably wouldn’t go out of my way to return. Samuel Adams is the title sponsor so the brewery’s Oktoberfest beer is plentiful. I tried a few other brews as well before retiring to my room for a quick nap.

Right before I left the city, I checked Pollstar’s concert schedule to see if there was anything happening in the area that weekend. Puff Daddy and the Bad Boy Reunion Tour was in town. And across the river in Newport, Kentucky, Jon McLaughlin was performing with supporting act Marc Scibilia.

Marc Scibilia?! I know him!

Marc and I grew up together in Western New York. I hadn’t seen him in about a year, but that changed last weekend. I attended his performance at The Southgate House Revival, which looks like a renovated church-turned-venue. It’s a very unique place to catch a show.

After his solo set, Marc and I decided to do something more unique: we grabbed Mexican food in Northern Kentucky. The spicy tacos were surprisingly delicious and seemed like a good idea at the time.

A little later in the night I flip-flopped on that decision.

Anyways, Sunday brought about another three-mile-plus run before I walked over to Great American Ballpark. I bought a ticket on StubHub, two rows off the field right by third base, for $30. It was a hot and humid day in the city, and coincidentally enough, former Yankee stars Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli were starting for the Pirates.

The ballpark was a real treat: great sightlines, lots of cool places to stand and watch the game, plenty of food and beverage options. The staff and the fans were both pleasant, despite the abysmal season that the Reds have had.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on

Cincy salvaged the final game of the series and I made my way back to the hotel, through Oktoberfest one more time. There was a big TV set-up so Bengals fans could catch the end of the game against the team’s archrival the Steelers. The Bengals lost and I think between that, the heat and Oktoberfest – the wind was taken from the sails of the city.

I did end up at the casino (small donation via the Blackjack tables) and Nick Lachey’s sports bar (aptly named “Lachey’s” – good food, excellent Bloody Mary) before essentially retiring to my room for the evening. I wanted to relax and I also came to the realization that I definitely did not need 48 hours to experience all that Cincy had to offer.

I also probably don’t need to book travel after a night of drinking but something tells me I haven’t quite learned that lesson yet.

The buzz continues to build, the schedule continues to fill up and the guys that comprise Walk The Moon continue to find themselves in an album cycle that admittedly they want to see stretch out for as long as possible. When you look at what has happened in 2015 to the group, you really can’t blame them.

“Shut Up and Dance” is in serious contention for “Song of the Summer.” The band’s next single from its sophomore album Talking Is Hard will be “Different Colors,” an anthem of different gravitas but near-equal jubilation. And the Cincinnati-quartet is playing all types of stages: as headliners, as supporters for The Rolling Stones and as performers on “Good Morning America” and at MLB’s Home Run Derby in their home city. At this point (or at least the day after their date in Detroit with Mick, Keith and the boys), lead singer Nick Petricca credited “caffeine and adrenaline” with fueling the band, but downplayed any changes of seismic proportions in the group.

“We’ve always kept ourselves working around the clock, so in a way not much has changed,” he told me on “Ralphie Tonight.” “I think we’re going to see the results (of the single’s success) the next time we tour.”

Walk The Moon has already noticed a change in the crowd at shows, especially when those opening notes of “Shut Up” hit the speakers. But their last headlining tour sold out before the song became inescapable.

That’s not to say the single’s success hasn’t brought about other change.
“I get a whole lot more texts now saying, ‘Hey, I heard “Shut Up and Dance” in X-Y-Z bizarre situation,” noted guitarist Eli Maiman. “So like – ‘I heard it at Cardinals Stadium in St. Louis, or I heard it in Victoria’s Secret this morning.’

“And I’m like, ‘Mom, why are you telling me this?’”

When the laughter subsided, WTM told me that they also want to collaborate with other artists they enjoy; Petricca said the band hasn’t “sold a song” to anyone yet but they have written with other musicians, and Maiman teased a possible Walk The Moon-feature for another singer could be released soon.

The lead singer also mentioned that there’s a chance fans could hear some new material from the group later this year. At the moment the focus is on “Different Colors,” a song that started as a rallying cry but with recent news events such as the Supreme Court’s lifting of same-sex marriage bans, has turned in to more of a “victory march.” The single celebrates diversity and aims to unite.

“It feels really relevant to be playing it right now, and really cool,” said Maiman.

“It’s incredible,” Petricca added. “We’re just all on the same team out here and it’s cool to feel a part of a movement.”

That idea of community is something that the band can easily be reminded of every night, as they perform in front of thousands of face-painted fans whose sole objective is to have fun. No wonder they don’t want this to end.