whatzup2nite • Wednesday, May 27

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Things To Do

Three Rivers Festival Volunteer Fair Informational event for persons wishing to volunteer at this year’s festival, 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, Main Branch, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 426-5556

National Shows

Gordon Lightfoot — Folk/light rock at Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., $43-$73, 424-5665

Music & Comedy

Chagrin Comedy Showcase — Comedy at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 483-5526

Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Mad Anthony Lakeview Ale House, Angola, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 833-2537

Who Dat (Paul New Stewart & Kimmy Dean) Variety at 4D's, Fort Wayne, 7-10:30 p.m., no cover, 490-6488

Karaoke & DJs

American Idol Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055

Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038

Shut Up & Sing w/Michael Campbell — Karaoke at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 483-1311

Stage & Dance

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Art & Artifacts

AFROS: A Celebration of Natural Hair — Photography chronicling the evolution of the Afro in America by Michael July, Tuesday-Sunday, thru Dec. 31, 2016, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Al Satterwhite: Fear and Loathing on Cozumel — Never-before-released photographs from Satterwhite’s week on Cozumel with Hunter S. Thompson, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 31, 2016, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

American Brilliant Cut Glass — Highlights form the American Cut Glass Association Permanent Collection, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 6, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Brilliant Optics: A Spectrum of Mediums and Color — Contemporary works with a bold pallet and an underlying static movement by national artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 31, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Donald Martiny: Freeing the Gesture — Abstract sculpted paintings, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 31, 2016, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Emerging Spring — Mixed media pieces from Jody Hemphill Smith, Katy McMurray, Michael Poorman, Mike Kelly, Joey Frisillo, Diane Lyon, Doug Runyan, Susan Suraci, Terri Buchholz, Andrea Bojrab, Bill Inman, Terry Armstrong, Mark Daly, Dan Woodsman, Donna Shortt, Lori Putnam, Mark Burkett, CW Mundy, Rick Wilson, Fred Doloresco, Forrest Formsma, B. Eric Rhoads, Robert Eberle, Pamela C. Newell and Shelby Keefe, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568

Freedom Riders and Bus Boycotters: Threads of a Story — Large scale portraits from the Civil Rights Movement, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 31, 2016, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Graphicanos: Contemporary Latino Prints from the Serie Project — Prints focused on a variety of sociopolitical and cultural issues of the Latino community, Tuesday-Sunday thru Dec. 31, 2016, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Heritage Barns of Indiana: An Artist’s Passion — Plein air barn paintings by Gwen Gutwein, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 31, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Meridian: Paintings and Ceremonial Art — Mixed media pieces from Tobi Kahn, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 7, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

National Print Exhibition — 60 hand pulled prints by fifty-two artists from 17 states, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 27, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Steven Sorman: Only When — Paintings and prints, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 14, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theatre classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa

Junior Rising Star Summer Camp — For grades K-2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 3-7, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, 422-6900

Rising Star Summer Camp — For grades 3 and up, June 16-26 and July 20-31, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, 422-6900

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, call for pricing, 432-8176 ext. 1961, academy.sweetwater.com


Gordon Lightfoot


He’s the man behind uber 70s hits “Early Mornin’ Rain,” “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Ribbon of Darkness,” “Rainy Day People,” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (the song, not the actual accident.) Now Gordon Lightfoot, arguably the best singer-songwriter to have ever come of out our neighboring country to the north, will be at the Embassy Theatre for a one-night engagement Wednesday, May 27. The show begins at 8 p.m. Lightfoot, now 76, is a legend of the folk-rock scene. Bob Dylan once said he wishes a Lightfoot composition would last forever, and, at this point in the troubadour’s career, countless musicians have recorded and/or covered those siren songs. That list includes Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Barbra Streisand, Glenn Campbell, Richie Havens, Waylon Jennings, Nico, Viola Wills and Eric Clapton. Lightfoot grew up in a small town in Ontario. His mother was the first to notice his musical talents, and she shaped him into a successful child performer. In 1958 he moved to California where he lasted but two years before heading back to Canada to cure his homesickness. He’s lived there ever since, exporting more than 200 recordings and helping determine the now iconic sound of 60s and 70s folk, thanks to his baritone voice and 12-string guitar. He’s suffered a few health setbacks in recent years, including a serious stomach issue and a stroke, and it was rumored for a time on Twitter that he might be dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. He started touring as a teen and hasn’t really stopped since. As he told a writer with The Spec, “I’ve been almost dead a couple times, once almost for real ... I have more incentive to continue now because I feel I’m on borrowed time.”

Tommy James & the Shondells

A Lifetime in Clover

It may be possible that a segment of the population is unfamiliar with the name Tommy James, but it is pretty near impossible that anyone walking Planet Earth is unfamiliar with the hits Tommy James & the Shondells enjoyed through the late 1960s. The songs weren’t just popular during their heyday; they continue to sound pitch perfect nearly 50 years later and still turn up on television, in film and through an astonishing list of covers. “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” demonstrated not only Tommy James & the Shondells’ keen ear for hit singles, but also their diversity. It’s sometimes hard to believe one group – and one singer – covered so much musical ground at such a young age. James, only 12 when he started his first band and just 16 when he first recorded “Hanky Panky,” shared his unusual story in the music business in the 2010 memoir Me, the Mob, and the Music. Although born in Ohio and raised in Niles, Michigan, his story has all the gangster allure of The Jersey Boys. Roulette Records executive Morris Levy was, as they used to say, connected, but it was his business savvy and those connections that helped Tommy James & the Shondells earn 23 Gold singles and rack up 110 million in sales. The story is riveting, but it’s one James almost didn’t share. “For years people wanted me to write a book, and I had started it with Martin Fitzpatrick about eight years ago. It was going to be about ‘Crimson & Clover’ and about the hits and so forth. But it seemed like if I were going to write the story, it would have to be the Roulette story. But it made me uncomfortable to write about that because some of those guys were still walking around. So the book sat on the shelf for a few years until the last of the Roulette regulars had passed on. We decided to go ahead and finish the book and got a deal with Simon & Schuster and Scribner, which was pretty great since they usually publish presidential memoirs and such.” The interest didn’t stop there. The film and Broadway rights have also been secured, and a screenplay is currently being written while Barbara DeFina (Casino, Cape Fear, Goodfellas) will oversee production. Following its release in movie theaters, the stage version is set to hit Broadway. It’s a surprising story, one made even more so because it almost never happened. “Hanky Panky,” first recorded in 1964, received some local airplay in Niles, but ultimately went nowhere. In 1965 the song found an unlikely second life when a Pittsburgh DJ found the forgotten gem in a bin of old records. He began playing it in dance clubs, and an enterprising bootlegger started distributing the song to local radio stations. Unbeknownst to James, he had a hit single in Pittsburgh. “The record had no distribution when it first came out and went nowhere, so it died. Two years later I had just gotten out of high school and I had taken a band on the road around the Midwest. We had a date to play in Janesville, Wisconsin – I guess this was around April of ’66 – and before we played the IRS shut the place down because the owner hadn’t paid his taxes. So we came crawling back to Niles – we were lucky to get out of there with our instruments – and when I got home I got a call from a guy in Pittsburgh telling me that ‘Hanky Panky’ was the No. 1 song there. If that guy in Wisconsin had paid his taxes, I would never have been home to get that call, and you and I wouldn’t be talking right now. That’s how God works. When that song became a hit, I did nothing. It just happened.” “Hanky Panky” was the song that put Tommy James & the Shondells on the radar of record companies, and it was at Roulette that the group found a happy, if sometimes dangerous and frustrating, home. Ultimately, the fact that they had as much success as they did and found the wide range of great hit songs they recorded demonstrates that Roulette was a good fit for them. “We were very lucky really because Roulette left us alone. Getting paid was like taking a bone from a Doberman, but they did allow us to do whatever we wanted to do. We had musical geniuses around us, mainstays who gave us a major career. I’ve been very blessed. We did start writing ourselves eventually, and when we weren’t touring, we were recording. When we weren’t recording, we were writing. Morris kept cracking the whip to keep the hit singles coming, but there were no other bands on the label. We owned the candy store.” When James visits Fort Wayne’s Foellinger Theatre next week, he’ll be sharing the spotlight with fellow 60s idol Peter Noone whose Herman’s Hermits had a similar trajectory in the 1960s while Noone himself was a teenager. James says the pair have known each other for years, and he’s looking forward to their double-bill. Both men understand the heady days they both enjoyed while very young, and James says having shared his own story through his memoir has been “therapeutic.” That story, and the impending film and stage productions, will also keep the music of Tommy James & the Shondells in the limelight. James says they have a deal with Sony which helps them place their music in films and commercials. Two upcoming ads, one for Samsung and one for a brand of vodka, even feature the Shondells song “I’m Alive,” an album cut from Crimson & Clover which never even charted. That song did, however, land on a recent Tom Jones album, another in a long line of covers which James says now numbers 300. What are some of his favorite covers of Shondells hits? “I loved REM’s cover of ‘Draggin’ the Line’ from Austin Powers, and Prince did a fantastic job a couple of years ago with ‘Crimson & Clover.’ Actually, Dolly Parton and I recently did a duet of ‘Crimson & Clover,’ and I’ll be appearing on HBO on May 30 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions where I join Joan Jett to sing ‘Crimson & Clover.’ Miley Cyrus and Dave Grohl joined us, and it was great to have all those generations up there singing one song.” Only a junior in high school when he recorded the song that would one day change his life, James is grateful for the career he’s had and his years with Roulette. Occasionally harrowing, he says everything happens for a reason. “Despite all the craziness, we had great success with Roulette. I never in a million years would have thought that we’d still be around and doing this 50 years later.”

Michele DeVinney

Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival

A Familiar Winner's Circle

When the annual Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival began five years ago, it was a logical and exciting extension of what the Civic Theatre has been doing for years. But now, after hundreds of local actors had sharpened their skills and shared their talents with regional audiences on one of the most popular stages in town, those wishing to work on the other end of the play – the writing and creating of characters, plots and action – had their opportunity to shine. Phillip Colglazier, the Civic’s longtime executive and artistic director, had experience of his own as a playwright, realizing that without a stage and cast to bring those pages to life, a play is just a bunch of papers in a drawer. But the Playwright Festival has provided writers from or formerly from the Fort Wayne area a chance to bring those pages to the light, giving them voice and form. This year, two faces very familiar to the Civic are having their submissions performed in a first ever tie for first place. What’s really remarkable is that the selection committee that chose the winning plays did so without knowing whose submission they were judging. That detail alone makes it especially surprising that the winning names are closely associated with Civic Theatre. “I felt a little funny about it at first,” says Rebecca Cameron a member of the Civic Board of Directors and employee of Lincoln Financial. “I wondered if people would think my play was chosen because of my connection to the Civic. But I was assured that the committee doesn’t know any information about the playwright when they’re reading them, so that made me feel better.” Cameron, whose one-act play Touch & Go will be performed at the festival, needn’t have worried. A professional writer who not only provides her talents at Lincoln, but also has had a freelance business for 15 years, has been jotting down ideas for years and only recently decided to try her hand at the Playwright Festival contest. “I’ve been writing a lot over the years, but I haven’t had enough time to pursue creative writing. You get busy with kids and your job, and you just don’t have the time to do all the things you want to. I’ve kept a notebook for about 20 years with ideas and snippets of dialogue, so when I decided I wanted to try to submit something for this, I went to that notebook for ideas and thought this one would be a good one.” Touch & Go tells the story of a woman who lingers in a coma following an overdose and confronts her own inner demon, one with a mind and personality of its own. The play also shows what happens to a family when brought together by a tragedy like this. She says it was fun to give voice to that kind of personality. “I won’t say that it’s comedic or even light-hearted, but that demon character gives the story a little bit more pizzazz. It’s funny because I heard that Phillip was surprised that something like that could come from ‘sweet Rebecca,’ but he doesn’t know the sarcastic and less sweet side of me!” Cameron’s co-winner, Bob Ahlersmeyer, is familiar to audiences of Civic productions over the years. He and his wife Eileen are well known to theatergoers in the area, having each performed in dozens of shows over the years. A teacher at Carroll High School and adjunct faculty at IPFW, Ahlersmeyer loves to share his passion for theater with students, but had previously experienced it only as an actor. Now he gets to see a different side of the process. “I got to sit in on the audition process. Phillip asked for my input on casting ideas and choices, so I’m getting to see the process from the other end. I’m realizing that once the actors perform it, I have no control over it anymore. As an actor, I’m used to being in charge. Now I’m giving my work to someone else and meeting them at the finish line. “I’m just going to enjoy this experience of being the writer instead of the actor and sit in the audience, hold my wife’s hand and hear my own words coming from the stage.” Like Cameron, Ahlersmeyer is happy to know that his reputation with the Civic played no role in his play, Is This Seat Taken?, being chosen for first place at the festival. “I’m glad the committee didn’t know who had written the plays when they were judging them, so I know that it won on its own merit, not because I have a history with the Civic. Honestly, I felt like I was a winner when I was told I was in the top three because I wasn’t even going to submit it until some friends who read it encouraged me to do it.” Cameron has been submitting pieces to the festival for the past few years, always making the first cut, which whittles the list down to six, but not quite making the top three. This year she learned she made the next cut and then, finally, that she was the co-winner. Having two playwrights sharing the top prize is a first for the festival, but Colglazier said it seemed a good year to do it. “It’s funny how it happened,” says Colglazier. “Both plays were well done, and it was hard to take one over the other. But both are one-act plays, each only about 60 pages long, so we decided we could do both and have them share first prize since together they’re the length of a two-act play.” Cameron expects to be a “hot mess” at May 29 opening and is looking forward to sharing the experience with family and friends. Ahlersmeyer is already submitting his play, featuring a man and woman meeting over drinks at a bar, to other similar contests and is also happy to learn more about what happens behind the scenes, away from his more comfortable role as actor. “I’m getting a good grasp on how hard it is to cast a show,” he says. “I never really had that appreciation because I’m used to going in as an actor and thinking in terms of why I should be cast. This has really opened my eyes to how many factors are involved in casting decisions. I’m also looking forward to sharing this perspective with my theater appreciation students at IPFW.”

Michele DeVinney

Brady Shrock

Tomorrowland in His Sights

IPFW theatre major Brady Schrock grew up in the tiny town of LaGrange, in a family of nurses and engineers. “This made my theatrical career choice a little jarring,” he jokes, “but they are all wonderfully supportive and have never missed a performance.” As a youngster, Schrock spent a lot of time outdoors and engaged in sports. “And I mean all of the sports,” he says. “Baseball, basketball, soccer, football, and golf.” In addition to sports, he honed his performance skills showing rabbits, goats and calves at the county’s 4-H fair. But he found his true calling at the age of eight when the Missoula Children’s Theatre of Montana made its first visit to his elementary school. The organization sends a troupe of actors and directors throughout the country to involve local schoolchildren in theater productions. He participated every year they came to his school. “This was my first real acting experience,” Schrock says, “and I was hooked.” As a fifth grader, he saw Lakeland High School’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “I was simply astounded by the production,” he says. “I saw every single one of their shows. Little did I know that in a few years I would be up on the same stage doing the same thing.” As a freshmen at LHS he nailed his first audition and was cast as Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing. “I loved every second of it,” he remembers. “I could not wait to do another show.” Seventeen productions later, he is starring as Franklin Shepard in the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along with the IPFW Department of Theatre. IPFW was an easy choice of schools for Schrock. Much like a high school baseball or basketball player, he was “scouted.” IPFW’s theater chair John O’Connell and technical director Mark DeLancey attended the two productions he starred in during his senior year in high school. After his performance in Oklahoma!, O’Connell offered him a theater scholarship. “That was essentially the equivalent of my audition for the department,” Schrock says. Now a junior, he says he considers IPFW as a second home. “The smaller, close-knit nature of the department allows for this connection,” he says. “Everyone is willing to work with all types of people. It’s like ‘the melting pot’ of college degrees.” Schrock recognizes the importance of being able to work with diverse groups of people even outside the theatre. “Employers are learning that theater breeds this kind of acceptance as well,” he says. “More and more, theater majors are being hired in different fields because of their willingness to get things done and their ability to work really solidly as a team.” This spirit of teamwork and a family atmosphere have been fostered by the IPFW theaterstaff. “Our professors here are all essentially parent figures for all of us,” Schrock says. “It gives me more of an incentive to do my best in all of my academic ventures because disappointing one of the professors feels like letting down a parent. If that doesn’t explain how integral our professors are in our lives, I don’t know what will.” Schrock also appreciates the professional background and experiences the teaching staff brings to their classrooms. “Wonderful professors are the ones who teach from real life experiences,” he says. “That is exactly what we have at IPFW: wonderful professors.” The most valuable acting tool Schrock has learned at IPFW has been the concept of “scoring” a script. “Scoring scenes and monologues is where you break down the intentions behind each line of text. It makes your performance much more interesting and evocative,” he says. “Any time I’m having difficulty grasping a character in a particular scene, I turn to scoring, and it really does a nice job of clearing everything up.” Schrock values his backstage work just as much as his acting performances. “Working backstage is equally as important as actually being on stage,” he says. “It gives you a very deep appreciation for all the technical elements of theater.” The IPFW Department of Theatre professors instill a strong work ethic in its students, Schrock says. “For my role in Merrily We Roll Along, I spent probably the most time preparing than I have for any previous role,” he says. “This show is a fairly large undertaking. The songs are all so wonderfully written and are such a pleasure to sing. This show’s message is extremely important, and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences.” He also has high praise for his fellow performers. “Every single cast member is amazing at what they do, truly,” he says. “Everyone has a good balance of having fun but knowing when to work. It also helps that we are all really good friends, a result of the tightly-knit family that is the IPFW theater department.” This production marks his third under the direction of Craig Humphrey, Mindy Cox and Holly Knott. “I would do a hundred more shows with Craig,” Schrock says. “His direction is so fun, yet extremely efficient. He knows what he has to do and he gets it done. And it’s always a pleasure to be under the musical direction of Mindy Cox and Holly Knott. I learn so much from their expert musicianship every time I do a show with them.” Although the bulk of his theatrical experience has been at IPFW, he has also worked at the Elkhart Civic Theatre and plans to do more productions at other venues as his schedule permits. “I developed a lot of professional relationships and friendships at the Elkhart Civic Theatre that mean a lot to me,” he says, “This industry is all about networking, so developing all of those relationships is really integral to being successful.” He will graduate in the spring of 2016 with a BA in theater with an emphasis in acting. After that, his ultimate goal is to be a cast member at a Disney theme park – preferably as Aladdin. “To say that I’m obsessed with Disney is a ridiculous understatement,” he says. “My theater degree would blend pretty seamlessly into life as a Disney cast member, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibility.” As a backup plan, he also plans on earning a minor in hospitality management. “Working at a luxury resort in the Caribbean wouldn’t be all that bad,” he notes. In the meantime, Schrock is enjoying his life and his prospects for the future. “If I’m not having fun, I’m doing something wrong,” he says. “I couldn’t be more pleased with myself for picking a profession that allows me to play for a living with other people who love theater just as much as I do.”

Jen Poiry-Prough

Kill the Rabbit

Coming for You

Kill The Rabbit, or KTR (or Kill Tha Wabbit, for you Looney Toons aficionados) are a five-piece hard rock band out of Van Wert, Ohio that have put down roots in Fort Wayne in the last few years. They’ve won over fans with a gritty, working class, a-few-beers-after-work kind of rock n’ roll bravado. Make no mistake here, folks; these guys don’t make Pitchfork-approved indie rock. No, this is leather pants, bullhorn-singing, guitar noodling, sexual innuendo-filled, drop D-tuned, machismo-oozing hard rock. If you have a soft spot for 80s metal, 90s hard rock and some of the current pop metal you might hear on 98.9 The Bear, you are in for a real treat on Kill The Rabbit’s newest album, Coming for You. First off, if you didn’t grow up in the 80s – or if you never owned an album by Tesla, Ratt, Poison, Queensÿrche or anyone that toured with a case of White Rain in the van – you may not find Coming for You appealing. If you did grow up in the 80s and your cassette and vinyl collection was overrun by The Replacements, REM and The Cure, you’re probably in that last group of folks. But those who are left are in for a treat. Big guitars, big melodies, crunchy riffs and soaring vocals are the name of the game here. The songs? There’s a mix of big raucous rock n’ roll, heart-on-sleeve balladry and fist-pumping anthemic arena rock. “Believe” opens the album with a mix of balladry and guitar swagger. “Every Shot” sounds like a Dokken b-side. Lead singer Scotty Hayes does a nice job of walking the line of hard rock bombast and soaring earnestness. In fact, everyone in Kill The Rabbit is very proficient at his job. Lead guitarist Tony Gardner plays like he’s looking for a spread in Metal Edge or Guitar World. He sporadically spits speedy riffs that will make you want to sit in your bedroom and learn “Eruption” all over again. Mike Adams lays down some solid rhythm guitar, while Marc Baker and Sheridan Lippi form a bass and drum section that gives the songs a much-needed low end. “Fit To Be Tied” falters a bit with its 80s sexual innuendos and girating machismo. “Wind It Out” is another track that hits hard in the music department but tends to falter with the “come hither” prepubescent lyrics. But hey, this is 80s-inspired rock after all. Elsewhere, songs like title track and a rocked-up cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” make up for those few missteps. I was looking forward to a cover of Ratt’s “Round And Round,” but alas, it was an original ballad of the same name. Still, not a bad tune. Coming for You doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is; and in a time where artists wear a different genre hat every day of the week, stability can be taken for granted. So what is Kill The Rabbit’s Coming for You? It’s a fun, sweaty, wild ride.

John Hubner

Wine Down Tastings & Tapas

Big City Flair Downtown

About a year ago, I met Gary Skeel, owner of the new downtown hot spot Wine Down. When we met, Gary and his wife’s plans for the restaurant were in their infancy, but his passion to make it a reality was palpable. Originally, they planned to locate the new restaurant on Dupont Road. For a downtown dweller like myself who considers anything north of Coliseum Boulevard practically out of bounds, the location was not ideal, but I vowed to give it a try once it opened. Fast forward a year, and news hits the street about a new restaurant opening in the Harrison. I was delighted to discover it was the Skeel’s dream coming to fruition. I didn’t know what to expect when I popped into Wine Down for the first time a few weeks ago. I remember what Gary told me about the concept, but I wasn’t sure how it would translate. Walking into the place, I was wowed. It is upscale and impeccably decorated. It is cozy and inviting and offers several booths, tables and seating areas for intimate parties. It also has a private room for larger parties. It has a big city feel, and my friend and I commented several times that it felt like we had been transported out of Fort Wayne by simply walking through the doors. Just beyond the entryway is the bar, featuring a large horseshoe-shaped bar with a combination of large booths and high-top tables surrounding it. The much-talked-about wine vending machines are located at one end of the space. These temperature-controlled machines dispense 1-, 2.5-, and 5-ounce pours and are operated with a Wine Down debit card that tracks guest selections. Just past the bar and up a few stairs is additional seating—couches with low tables and more traditional four-top tables. Doors lead out to an expansive patio that sits right on Parkview Field’s concourse. When I visited, the outdoor seating had not yet arrived, but they assured me it had been ordered and will be ready in a few weeks. Our city needs more outdoor dining options, so this is a definite highlight. My friend and I bellied up to the bar and were greeted warmly by bartenders Trevor Scovel and Cory Barnard, both incredibly knowledgeable about the cocktail menu, and rightly so, since they had a hand in creating it. I was extremely impressed with the creativity and ingenuity of the drinks featured on the signature craft cocktail and signature wine menus. Here are some highlights. Hibiscus Gin Sour ($8): Made with hibiscus flavorings and gin. This is a refreshingly simple drink and one that I will definitely order again. Smoked Old Fashion ($12): Made with whiskey and a live smoked hickory glass. Yes, a live smoked hickory glass! The bartender pulled out a plank of hickory, took a torch to it to start it smoking and then set a glass over the smoke. The effect was subtle and delicious. If you are a whiskey drinker, you must try this drink. KoCo Rye ($12): Made with Chopin Rye vodka, champagne, red wine and fresh basil. The drink unfolds new flavors with each sip, none of which are overwhelming. One word to describe it: delightful. Washington Pinch ($10): Made with scotch blended with red wine, maraschino and orange liqueur. The scotch and red wine balanced each other nicely, and it finished with a subtle citrus flavor. Strawberry Basil Daiquiri ($8): Made with strawberry basil-infused rum added to a classic daiquiri recipe. This is definitely not your sorority girl daiquiri. It is made from scratch and catapulted to the top of our list once we sampled it. But what about the food? As I read the menu, my heart rate quickened. There are so many items I wanted to try, each unique and inventive. It features a nice selection of shareable tapas plates, two cheese and meat board choices, soups and salads and four carefully crafted large plate options. Here are a few of the highlights: Small Plates Olive Tapenade ($6): Kalamata and manzanilla olives blended with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, served with crostinis. This dish paired perfectly with our cocktails, and while it isn’t necessarily the most original dish on the menu, it was executed well – not too oily, not too bitter. We did have to ask for additional crostinis though, in order to finish the tapenade. Port Wine Basil Paté ($7): Classic paté blended with Port wine and sweet basil garnish with gherkins, served on baguettes. When this emerged from the kitchen, I was underwhelmed by the presentation, but the flavor was spot on. I’d recommend smaller baguettes and with the gherkins on the side. The pickle flavor overpowered the paté a bit, so I removed them and nibbled them separately to enjoy both flavors. Gourmet PB ’N’ J ($6): Bacon, Nutella, honey, black walnuts, raisins, raspberry preserves and chocolate chips served on cinnamon toast. Holy yum! I like all of these things on their own, but put them together and you have a flavor explosion. I highly recommend giving this dish a try, but certainly share it. It is sweetness overload. Large Plates Shrimp ’N’ Grits ($16): New Orleans-style shrimp with creamy Gouda cheese grits, topped with sunny-side-up egg and crisp prosciutto. When I asked Gary what his favorite dish is, he pointed to this one. I have had shrimp ’n’ grits at many restaurants across the country, and this one ranks up there with the best. Perhaps it’s the egg. Whatever it is, they got it right. Ostrich Filet ($26): Seared tenderloin filets of ostrich, with a Cabernet demi-glace, served over horseradish Parmesan red skin smashed potatoes. Oddly enough, I grew up eating ostrich burgers in my rural hometown in Illinois and always enjoyed it. I had not, however, had an ostrich steak before, and it did not disappoint. Lean and flavorful, the ostrich paired well with the cabernet demi-glace and potatoes. If you’re looking for a fun and different dining experience, give Wine Down a try. You may want to make a reservation if you plan to dine there during the weekend. I have heard the wait time for a table is over two hours.. amber.recker@gmail.com

Amber Recker

Bob Roets

33 Years on the Record

National Record Store Day has become an increasingly serious day of observance of late, growing substantially since its humble beginnings in 2008. And Fort Wayne’s undeniable ringleader of the record store circus is Bob Roets, owner of Wooden Nickel and local music maven. After more than 30 years at the helm of Wooden Nickel, he’s become the face of local music at a time when CD sales may be waning but, somewhat improbably, vinyl sales are soaring. And there to help lead the charge is Roets, a savvy businessman and enormously enthusiastic music fan. Though Roets is firmly ensconced in Fort Wayne and a devoted fan of the Indianapolis Colts, he came to the city from Madison, Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, it was a record store that brought him to the area. While still a student at University of Wisconsin, Roets worked at two different Playback Music stores before moving onto manage Slatewood Records on the main drag near campus. After he graduated, he was given the chance to manage a Slatewood Records in Fort Wayne, a store that was located in the North Clinton building that Wooden Nickel now calls home. But not long after his arrival, Slatewood’s owner decided to sell the business in favor of a video rental concern, a response to the hot ticket of the early 1980s. Roets, who had long hoped to one day open his own record store, took matters into his own hands. “When he closed the stores, it left all of us high and dry,” says Roets. “I was 23 years old and went six weeks without a job. I had hoped to run my own record store by the time I was 30, but I had some money saved up, and I had a personal collection of 2,500 albums. I also knew a guy who had a warehouse full of cut-out records, records that weren’t selling but couldn’t be returned to the distributor. He said I could sell those. So I filled the store with my records and those cut-outs. It didn’t come close to filling the store, but it was a start.” At that moment in 1982, Wooden Nickel was born. Roets might not have imagined that he and his family, which eventually included wife Cindy and his sons Christopher and Andrew, would have a business they could call their own more than three decades later. It’s even more remarkable when one remembers that Fort Wayne had nine record stores – both locally owned and national chains – at the time. Roets recalls four in the adjacent Glenbrook Square alone. But always a good host, Roets began filling Wooden Nickel with music, via the newly introduced MTV which aired constantly in the store, and a clever little novelty that has become iconic. “I always say that the smartest thing I did was those Wooden Nickel tokens. They were a nice discount, and people like that. But they were also a conversation piece. It was like a calling card, except instead of me handing you my business card, I could hand you a Wooden Nickel. That whole thing blew up really well and has been great for us.” Roets also positioned himself on the front end of the CD wave, picking up an early Genesis CD when they were not yet available in the States and getting one of the first CD players when they arrived at Lehman Electronics. That additional novelty, and the fascination that accompanied a new technology, helped boost foot traffic as well. “The bulk of our profits came from the introduction of the CD back then, and it really peaked when the Beatles catalog came out on CD. We had a big event when Sgt. Pepper’s came out, put black lights in the building and had lava lamps like it was 1967. It was a lot of fun. CDs were just killing it. We had six stores opened by then, and 1988 to 1992 were our best years.” But after years of growth, there came a time when Roets admits the business suffered. When Best Buy arrived in 1992, it introduced discounts that the locally owned shops couldn’t match and, along with Target and Walmart, came to offer special edition CDs which contained bonus material. It was hard for independent shops to compete. “That hurt us a little bit because when Best Buy opened it took one-quarter of our business away. Then Napster came along and nobody wanted to have to pay for music anymore. We eventually had to close three of our stores – the ones at Georgetown, Dupont and Southgate.” But help was to come from an unexpected source. Vinyl, which had seemed all but dead with the arrival of CDs and digital sources like mp3s, began to slowly catch on again – and not just with the oldsters who still fondly remembered the format, but with a whole new generation who hardly remembered it in the first place. Wooden Nickel’s North Anthony location, which carries as many albums as CDs, became a favorite stomping ground for those looking to expand their vinyl collection, and the vinyl offerings at the other two Wooden Nickel locations has slowly begun to encroach on the CD shelves too. “A couple of years ago, I started seeing parents who had given their kids turntables for Christmas and they were coming in together to buy vinyl to play on them. And they weren’t just buying brand new releases; they were getting the same thing kids were getting when I was buying albums and rediscovering classic rock and 60s hits and Motown. It’s really a compliment to that time and how eclectic the bands were back then. I get a big kick out of seeing the music I experienced as a young lad being discovered by kids now.” An additional source of strength for Wooden Nickel has come recently with its inclusion in The Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS). Created to help promote indies against the huge corporate competitors by providing some of the same benefits available to large retailers, interest from CIMS was a surprise to Roets, who noticed that most of its participating stores were in large markets like Los Angeles. But the folks at CIMS became aware of how much product Wooden Nickel was moving, as well as the in-store appearances by local bands, something Roets had suggested to the members of CIMS when they were first introducing National Record Store Day. After passing through a long process, Wooden Nickel is now a member of CIMS and can offer discounted new releases just as the “big box” retailers can. Another recent benefit is the addition of sampling stations where shoppers can scan a CD and hear a small sample of the music before buying. Greater web presence and social media awareness has also come thanks to CIMS, and Roets can now move merchandise that had been relegated to a warehouse and better promote in-store appearances and, of course, Record Store Day. The recent event saw the highest foot traffic ever, with Roets counting at least 50 heads in the store at any given time. With 18 bands booked, some were calling the event “Nickelstock,” and while Roets chuckles at that name, it can’t be entirely denied either. Where he once had to beg bands to play, he now begins to hear from them shortly after Christmas each year, asking to be included in the day’s full schedule. The addition of Dogfish Beer as a National Record Store Day sponsor meant a beer truck stationed outside the North Anthony store, and businesses in the area provided their own celebration of the day. Clearly the love of records has become big business again, and Roets is starting to see that it isn’t just a fad – and that he and Wooden Nickel have survived the lull. “Vinyl has really gone mainstream. I’ll tell you when I knew it was really moving that way was when a 16-year-old girl starts coming to a record store to buy vinyl when she grew up with mp3s. When that starts happening, you know it’s not just a fad anymore. I was not confident three or four years ago, but when you see double-digit vinyl sales increases each year, you have to say it isn’t a fad anymore.”

Michele DeVinney


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