July 2012 Issue

Page 1

the polyester of brick july 2012  no. 97

must we fear gluten?

the coiffure project

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this month

#97  July 2012

features 26


feature Represent the World Town by Al Shipley Rye Rye & Blaqstarr take Baltimore club music to a global audience. about the cover:


Editor’s Note 9 What You’re Saying 11 What You’re Writing 15 Don’t Miss 17 The Goods —— baltimore observed

Photo by J.M. Giordano “The cover image is meant to represent the role the turntable played in early hip hop and rap culture,” J.M. Giordano says. “Iconic ’70s New York DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore is considered the father of scratching, a technique in which DJs and artists move a record back and forth across a turntable.”



Stone Cold

by Marianne Amoss Formstone is the façade that Baltimore loves to hate. Bob Ibex tells us why we should still care about it. Scan the QR code to listen to our free Bmore hip hop playlist, compiled by Staff Photographer J.M. Giordano. Download the tracks by going to http://bit.ly/Urbanitehiphop.

23 Update 24 Urbanite Project 25 Voices

—— poetry



by Richard Krohn

—— 47



Roomie Love

For artists who share studio space, the challenges involved are worth the added inspiration. by Andrew Zaleski

—— food + drink 39

Grain of Truth

What’s up with the gluten-free craze? by Martha Thomas

44 Dining Reviews 45 Wine & Spirits

—— arts + culture 47

A Woman’s Hair Is Like Her Helmet

By Krishana Davis Local entrepreneurs create a hub for the growing natural hair trend in Baltimore.

50 Music

web extras

more online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com

on the air

—— 51 The Scene —— 54 Eye to Eye

Urbanite on The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM July 24 : A conversation with playwright and rapper Will Power

Urbanite #97  july 2012  5

issue 97: july 2012 publisher Tracy Ward Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com executive editor Rebecca Messner Rebecca@urbanitebaltimore.com senior editor Ron Cassie Ron@urbanitebaltimore.com digital media editor Andrew Zaleski Andrew@urbanitebaltimore.com editor-at-large David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com online editors food/drink: Tracey Middlekauff Tracey@urbanitebaltimore.com arts/culture: Cara Ober Cara@urbanitebaltimore.com, proofreader Marianne Amoss contributing writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Michael Corbin, Heather Dewar, Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Brennen Jensen, Michelle Gienow, Clinton Macsherry, Richard O’Mara, Robin T. Reid, Andrew Reiner, Martha Thomas, Baynard Woods, Michael Yockel, Mary K. Zajac editorial interns Lawrence Burney, Rebecca Kirkman, Anna Walsh

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production manager Belle Gossett Belle@urbanitebaltimore.com graphic designers Kristian Bjornard, Lisa Van Horn production intern Vanessa Reyes staff photographer J.M. Giordano Joe@urbanitebaltimore.com photography intern Leah Daniels video intern Joseph Campbell

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senior account executive Freda Ferguson Freda@urbanitebaltimore.com account executive Natalie Richardson Natalie@urbanitebaltimore.com sales marketing associate Erin Albright Erin@urbanitebaltimore.com sales/markeing intern Laura Klipp bookkeeper/distribution coordinator Michelle Miller Michelle@urbanitebaltimore.com creative director emeritus Alex Castro founder Laurel Harris Durenberger — Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, md 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily share the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2012, Urbanite llc. All rights reserved. Urbanite (issn 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, md 21211. Urbanite is a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

bottom, top, and Rebecca Messner Photo by Leah Daniels.; Middle photo by Anne Walker


editor’s note

Rebecca Kirkman, who wrote this month’s “The Goods” section (p. 17), is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California’s journalism program. She has written for LA Weekly’s blog, USC’s Neon Tommy, and Urbanite before beginning her editorial internship at Urbanite. On writing “The Goods,” she says, “Being from Portand, I liked being able to jump right into Baltimore’s art scene and interviewing some of the city’s best innovators.” In the four-part poem “Recon” (p. 33), Richard Krohn tells the story of an Iraq War veteran who returns to, and rediscovers, Baltimore. After living in Central America, Krohn spent fifteen years in Charm City before settling with his wife in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “To me, Baltimore is intriguingly versatile,” he says. “North and South, close to coast and mountains, a big city yet not the city.” The poem has special significance, he says, because “being in Baltimore always reminds me of what it’s like to come home.”

Al Shipley, who wrote this month’s look at Baltimore club music (p. 26), has written for City Paper, the Baltimore Sun, and the Village Voice. Through his book-in-progress, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music, he hopes to give shape to a scene that lacks a clear, canonized history. A follower of Baltimore club music and artists Rye Rye and Blaqstarr, Shipley says he enjoyed writing a piece that ties them together at a time when their stories intertwine.

Rebecca messner

in 2006, Baltimore-bred hip hop producer Blaqstarr released the track “Hands Up, Thumbs Down,” and it quickly became an anthem for the city’s club scene. As the song’s hyperadrenalized backbeat churns, a young girl methodically chants, “Hands up, thumbs down, represent that D-town.” D-town, here, is downtown Baltimore, although many fans understandably misinterpret the lyrics as “B-town.” Either way— it’s our city. In a remix, the girl who chants is 16-year-old Ryeisha Berrain, better known as Rye Rye—a protégée of Blaqstarr’s. The two are products of Baltimore—full of promise but rooted in the streets. By the time genre-bending Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A paid explicit homage to “Hands Up” on her 2007 alubum, Kala, D-town had become broader still: “Hands up, guns out, represent the world town.” Once a ferociously local subgenre, Baltimore club music is now one of the city’s most distinctive and influential global exports. In this issue’s feature, “Represent the World Town” (p. 26), local pop music expert Al Shipley charts Rye Rye’s and Blaqstarr’s rise to fame in a way that mimics the metamorphosis of that track. Blaqstarr now lives in L.A. and enjoys a critically lauded career as a producer; Rye Rye, with the long-awaited release of her debut album, Go! Pop! Bang!, could well become biggest pop star to come out of Baltimore. Once confined to their hometown, they are now representing the world. With that, we welcome you to our first-ever hip hop issue, in which we explore the way our city influences—and is influenced by— its music. Scan the QR code in our table of contents (p. 5) to download a mixtape of lesser-known Baltimore hip hop artists, carefully curated by Staff Photographer (and champion of the underground) J.M. Giordano. In a special edition of our “Goods” section (p. 17), we trace the intersection of hip hop and fashion with local MCs TT the Artist and Michael Haskins Jr. For our “Voices” interview, Ron Cassie talks with artist, rapper, and playwright Will Power about idea of the community in hip hop—how what was once the tribe in Africa evolved into the modern urban neighborhood (p. 25). Krishana Davis, in “A Woman’s Hair is Like Her Helmet” (p. 47), explores the aesthetic and cultural implications of natural, African American hair, highlighting local efforts to celebrate it. Elsewhere in this issue, prolific food writer Martha Thomas grapples with the gluten-free craze in a way that raises questions about herself and her livelihood—what happens when a restaurant reviewer can’t try the bread?—in “Grain of Truth” (p. 41). Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed—it’s summer. Mix yourself a highball (Urbanite’s wine columnist, Clinton Macsherry, tells you how on page 45), and grab a spot on your stoop. When you’re finished reading, check out the Great Baltimore Check-In (www.thegreatbaltimore checkin.com)—our citywide, Foursquare-powered scavenger hunt— which starts July 1. As you explore the hotspots and sleepy corners of the city, you’ll be representing your own town.

Coming next month

why do we write? Local scribes reflect on what brought their pencils to the page.

Urbanite #97  july 2012  7

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city vs. poly

e Food stamp challeng

what you’re saying

rip jFx?

96 june 2 0 1 2 no.

and, having been a competitive fencer myself for twenty-six years, I can say it attracts people from all walks of life, of varying race, colors, and creeds, from little kids who’ve seen too many Star Wars films to soccer moms to CEOs to scientists to warehouse workers to folks between jobs to PR guys like myself. I helped found the Chesapeake Fencing Club on Homeland Avenue near Govans; we’re now celebrating our 20th year. Why do we fence? Well, where else can you hit people with steel sticks and not get arrested? —Dan Collins

food stamped Re: “What You Get for $30,” Jun. ’12, about living on a food-stamp budget for one week: when i read the article in the June issue about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and how the author found it challenging to eat and drink off of $30 a week, two things stood out for me. The first was the leading word of the government program, “supplemental,” which means something that is added to complete a thing or make up a deficiency. Food stamps are a benefit to assist Marylanders in getting food but should not be depended on as the only source for obtaining nutrition. The second thing was the purchase of the chicken, which can be very expensive and substituted by less costly items such as beans, tofu, pasta, or rice. SNAP allows recipients to use funds to purchase seeds and plants that produce food for the household. This is a wonderful option that many Americans are choosing who do not receive food stamps and can be beneficial for those food stamp recipients who want healthier food on a budget.

i was excited to see the cover story on sports around Baltimore in the June issue. You wrote, “Before dawn … Baltimoreans row …” but you did not highlight the Baltimore Rowing Club. I wanted to bring to your attention all of the activity buzzing at the Boathouse on Waterview Avenue. Most recently, Baltimore Rowing developed a program for middle school students attending City Schools called Reach High that uses rowing as a platform for life success and college attainment … Individuals of all ages and abilities participate in the sport—from pre-teens to retirees, novice to competitive ... Look for us the next time you are driving across the Hanover Street bridge, running around Fort McHenry, or strolling along the Inner Harbor promenade.

first question. Does your plan account for the floodplain? —Ravenken

i like the idea of imagining a Baltimore without the JFX. The only thing I’d miss would be walking under it for the Sunday farmers market, though given its precarious state of health perhaps being under isn’t such a great idea. Wouldn’t it be nice to welcome people to the city with a wide, leafy boulevard? —Joanne Frederick

There is Unrest in the Forest Re: “The Forest for the Trees,” Jun. ’12, about redesigning Mount Vernon Square—and tearing up its trees: [twelve] million, which includes taxpayer dollars, spent in one of the most affluent neighborhoods to remove healthy, old-growth trees is tone deaf at a time when the city is struggling to pay its bills. The current canopy in Mt. Vernon Place provides wonderful respite. … We are increasing noise pollution, air pollution, and public funding to get a clear view of the monument, as the article suggests? The monument sits atop a HILL and is visible from several blocks away, especially in months when the leaves are growing back.

—Amy Kleine —baltores

Road Repairs Re: “Expiration Date” Jun. ’12, about the possibility of tearing down the Jones Falls Expressway: props to my pal Mat Edelson for this masterful take on the future of a highway running through downtown Baltimore, America’s petri dish for urban planning.

Word Counts Re: “Writer’s Block,” Jun. ’12, about why Baltimore’s literary scene has trouble turning heads: interesting, considering how frequently we talk about emulating Bmore in DC. —@MarkCugini

—Suzanne Bailey Get in the Game Re: “The Games People Play and Why Sports Matter,” Jun. ’12, about how the sports everyday Baltimoreans play build community among teammates: intriguing cover story. An interesting variety of sports represented, even cricket, although I was disappointed to see that fencing didn’t make the cut. There are a number of fencing clubs, or salles, throughout Baltimore

—Ramsey Flynn

enjoyed the article. Nice job, Mr. Edelson. One thing people have to keep in the back of their minds when talking about this elevated stretch is that it hovers over a floodplain. There are buildings depicted [in the renderings] being built in the floodplain. I would not mind going the route of opening up the river and making what could be fantastic parkland, but I want people to be reasonable when they are depicting the “possible” during discussions. All the studies that were done on [return on investment]—that would be my

@markcugini The lit community here [Baltimore] is great. Just sounds like the relationship bet. media and local lit goings on could be better. —@Lvandenberg

thanks for the mention, Joseph Martin and Urbanite! Local literary life is vibrant, exciting, quirky, and wonderful, and deserves more attention. —Celeste Sollod, BaltimoreBookTalk.com

Join the conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@UrbaniteMD). E-mail us at mail@urbanitebaltimore.com or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Urbanite #97  july 2012  9

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what you’re writing

i a m a n e a r l y r i s e r by nature. The quiet before dawn has always been time to think, to pause in the stillness and see the light quality changing on the wall as dawn approaches. As a child I would sometimes leave my suburban home in the wee hours to roam and stare at the stars, sneaking back to my bed just before dawn. As I grew and my responsibilities accrued, the more I clung to sleep and missed the dawn. These days I again wake early, always before the alarm and sometimes hours before. The sensation is no longer the satisfaction of hushed ease before the rush of the day. Instead there is the instant squeeze of grief in my chest and a moment of pitiful wishing that the world has not changed. I steel myself for the reality that the man who shares my bed no longer loves me. And, as it turns out, he hasn’t for some time. He sleeps here, in the bed we bought together, as foreign as some stranger in a hotel who wandered into the wrong room. He remains politely on his side, never straying for even so much as a detente of feet in the night. In the decades that I have shared a bed with this man, I could have never predicted the

wasteland it has become. No answers, no full night’s sleep, no mercy. It seems to be his part to come in late after I am asleep. I feel compelled to leave the bed early, in the darkness. I feel like a refugee trudging toward an uncertain and unpromising future. In recent months, hostility and distress have been replaced by a cordial vacancy that is without question harder to bear. I am up before dawn, drinking my coffee, and moving into the world alone. —Name withheld

t h e fi r s t l i g h t through my back windows seemed unfamiliar. I stepped onto the porch to find the huge white maple—which just yesterday stretched skyward from the yard two to the south of mine—deleted. The stump was a huge scar, at least 4 feet across, shaven close to the ground. Each day at dawn, I walk through my rowhouse garden, noting pest damage and small botanical miracles. Many days, I would look up at the behemoth canopy, resenting the shade

it threw on my artichokes, the helicopters that blanketed my beds each May, and the thousands of subsequent tree-weeds. The tree was too big for the yard and was doing damage to the house and its neighbors, and the absentee homeowner really should pay for a heavy pruning. But now that the tree was gone, I felt shame and guilt that I had somehow contributed to its demise. Its footprint told of the vast roots that stretch beneath my neighbor’s yard and into mine, under the alley and the garages beyond. I pondered what would become of the massive load of carbon fixed in its tissues; would it, liberated through burning or rot, be the exhale that melted the last icecap? I marveled at the tenacity with which it extracted nourishment from the compacted soil and wondered whether it had been planted and tended with care, or if it were the consequence of a rogue seed that twirled its way to the ground, beating the odds to become a seedling, sapling, mature tree. Just minutes after sunrise, I missed its shade and the soft screen it provided against the hard lines of humanity behind it. The solar Urbanite #97  july 2012  11

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what you’re writing energy now spilling onto the earth seemed wasted, like watching gasoline splash onto the ground. I immediately resolved to ask my neighbor’s permission to plant another tree in his unused yard—this time a native species, in a better location. As I contemplated how to soften this loss, my attention span suddenly seemed miserably short. Is my penchant for growing vegetables, mostly annuals, a reflection of a relentless impatience with the world, my need to see things transformed on a gratifying timescale? Each dawn I observe growth spurts in my garden, congratulating myself on my clever alchemy, turning soil and sun into gastronomic pleasures. But the grand old tree—each dawn it was the tree it was yesterday. Until it suddenly wasn’t. —Three years ago, Chrissa Carlson hired herself as the owner/operator of Urban Farmhouse Edible Landscapes. She lives in Waverly, where, at this very moment, she can be found digging, designing, concocting, or conjecturing.

i t d o e s n ’t m a t t e r that I pushed for nearly ninety minutes following a two-day labor, until he finally arrived at almost 11 o’clock at night. Nor does it matter that I didn’t settle in my in my room until well after midnight. I am up with the morning sun, euphoric. Just past downtown’s buildings, now reflecting early morning light back on me in the cramped hospital room, is the Inner Harbor. There, sitting on a dock two nights before, I cried to Tommy, “I just don’t know how this baby’s going to come out.” After eighteen hours on a Pitocin drip, my body had remained resistant to the idea of labor. The amniotic fluid was low, though. I had to birth this baby soon. Mary, my kind, firm midwife, released us from the hospital with the “prescription” for a good meal. “Tomorrow is the day!” she enthused. Walking to the Harbor, we joked it was our last babysitter-less date. I tried to be excited— like Mary. I tried to pull on that assured young woman I was, who swore she’d never get an epidural. But I could hardly eat a thing, for the lump in my throat wouldn’t let the food pass. My reserves were gone. I felt like a big wimp. Tommy tried to assure me, sweetly. The next morning, Mary warned me: To get the labor going quicker, they were cranking up the rate of the IV. It was a wild Pitocin-driven ride. And I rode without an epidural. Time passed for me in the tunnel that, finally, became real labor. When they broke what was left of the amniotic sac, the contractions went into overdrive. “I have to get off this bed, Tommy— tell them!” Mary, my labor angel, came through with a birth chair, draped it with warm sheets, and taught me the fine art of pushing out a baby.

Now in my bright morning room, Tommy snoozing in the corner, I can’t stop looking at our baby son, or stop touching, smelling, and kissing him. When my nurse comes in for morning vital signs, I hardly look up. “He’s your first?” she asks. —Bridget McMahon is a clinical research nurse. This is her first time writing something nonacademic. She lives in Baltimore City with her husband, Tom Nealis, and three children.

t h e r e w a s a l o v e l y patch of wildflowers two blocks from my parents’ city rowhouse, sitting untouched between someone’s one-car garage and an overgrown backyard. I found it on one of my bike rides through the neighborhood and devised a plan. The next morning, I was up at dawn. I constructed a note, sloppy and hurried—Good morning, I’ll be back soon. Love, Sam (with a smiley face)—even though I hoped I’d get back before they woke up. I even left the dog, the only one I whispered to who would understand and never tell a soul. He gave me the OK with sleep still in his eyes as his head hung from the top of the steps. I tiptoed out the back door and grabbed my bike. When I got there, the sun was making its way up the sky, spreading its arms and exposing all the colors of the flowers: bright purple, pink, and white. As a 9-year-old, this was my way of escaping my “hardships,” where I could just daydream and make up stories. No one was yelling at each other or making me do chores. I didn’t have to pretend or care. This little secret hide-out, this little hour or so of peace—this was mine. —Samantha Offenbacker is a a leasing consultant who lives, works, and plays in Fells Point. She has been writing since she could hold a pen.

i w a k e b e f o r e d aw n in the ancient mobile home that has been stationary for so long that trees have captured it in a wooden prison. I rise, dress by flashlight, leave the trailer as quietly as I can. In the chill dark I walk up to the cabin. The door opens with a creak. Quiet snoring fills the room as I turn on a bare light bulb in the kitchen. It’s my turn to cook breakfast for the family and friends that meet every November to chase deer through the forests of central Maine. Today it’s pancakes, with real Vermont maple syrup—not the thin maple-flavored sugar that you find in supermarkets. The coffee goes on first, then a few logs onto the embers of last night’s fire until it blazes up again, chasing away the chill in the cabin’s crowded main room—one of the courtesies of the cook. Pancakes are made from

scratch—flour, eggs, oil, milk—and whisked until a smooth batter forms. Fourteen men eat a lot of pancakes. I prepare a second batch (don’t forget a dash of vanilla). Two pounds of bacon go into an enormous frying pan, syrup into a pot to warm. The wood, gunpowder, and wet wool smells of the cabin soon mix with the warm odors of coffee, bacon, and maple. Stairs creak and Dad comes down, the first riser; I welcome him with a cup of coffee. “Good morning,” he mumbles, settling himself by the fire. The others stumble in; the buzz of conversation starts. A second pot goes on as the bacon comes off the stove, into the oven to warm. Almost half is already gone, stolen by nibblers. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last trip I will take with Dad. My brother and I notice his fatigue, his lack of appetite. He’s withdrawn, difficult to engage in conversation and early to retire from our games of cribbage. When we go home next week, he’ll see a doctor and hear the words that no one wants to ever hear: pancreatic cancer. In four months, he’ll be gone. Bacon goes into dishes on the table, pancakes onto the griddle. In minutes they’re done, steaming in the warming air of the cabin. “It’s soup!” I call to the hunters, who take their places at the long table. Dad sits, and I hand him the first plate. He smiles. —Charles Village resident Andre Fleuette is a contract photographer who enjoys photography, travel, and writing.

“What You’re Writing” is the place for creative nonfiction from our readers. Each month we pick a topic. Use the topic as a springboard into your own life and send us a true story inspired by that month’s theme. Only previously unpublished, nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211, or e-mail it to What YoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore.com. Submissions should be shorter than 400 words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. Topic Deadline Publication Companionship July 9, 2012 Sept. 2012 Turning Point Aug. 13, 2012 Oct. 2012 Out of Breath Sept. 10, 2012 Nov. 2012

Urbanite #97  july 2012  13

We are exceedingly grateful to all of our sponsors, supporters, volunteers and student performers for making the 9th Annual MentorZing a success on May 17, 2012. Proceeds will benefit the programs and services of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, our state’s premiere advocate and expert resource for youth mentoring. Presenting Sponsor M&T Bank Platinum Sponsor Transamerica • Under Armour • Wells Fargo


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don’t miss 1

images (clockwise from top left): photo by Leslie Furlong; photo by Mark Dennis; photo by Marcus Garner; photo by Mark Dennis; cover Photo by Dusdin Condren. Design by Daniel Murphy; courtesy of BSO





5 JULY 29, 2 P.M.–6 P.M.


1 JULY 1, 9 A.M.

3 JULY 20–22



Celebrate thirty-five years of locally sourced food at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar’s anniversary celebration. The milestone event introduces the new Welcome Center and Maryland’s new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which puts healthy food on the tables of families that need it most. Free Holliday and Saratoga sts. www.promotionandarts.com


Dubbed a “celebration of life, music, and culture,” the African American Festival has been a Baltimore tradition for more than thirty years. This year features a gospel singing challenge, an American Idol-esque competition called “Baltimore’s Superstar,” and Radio One’s Stone Soul Picnic. Free M&T Bank Stadium 1101 Russell St. www.africanamericanfestival.net

For more events, see the Scene on page 51.


It’s not only Baltimore’s most anticipated art event of the summer, it’s also billed as the largest free arts festival in America, spanning three days and attracting more than 350,000 art lovers annually. Spread out along Charles Street, Station North, and beyond, Artscape shows off the wares of more than 150 painters, sculptors, clothing designers, photographers, jewelry makers, craftspeople, and artists of every other inclination imaginable. Free Mt. Royal Ave. and Cathedral St. www.artscape.org


Just in time for Otakon (see p. 53), the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra celebrates the art of video games and anime with A Night in Fantasia: The Ultimate Games and Anime Experience. Conductor Philip Chu leads the orchestra in video game and anime scores accompanied by projected graphics. $38–$75 The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall 1212 Cathedral St. 410-783-8000 www.bsomusic.org


Get tips from the area’s top chefs and sample sumptuous local fare at the American Cancer Society’s 13th Annual Taste for Life at the Lyric Opera House. Guest chefs include Chef Galen Sampson of Hampden’s The Dogwood Restaurant and Bradley Willits (pictured), chef de cuisine at B&O American Brasserie. Proceeds go toward cancer research, programs, advocacy, and education. $90 The Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric 140 W. Mt. Royal Ave. 410-781-4316 www.tasteforlife.org

6 JULY 29, 8 P.M. Music

You may know Canadian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Spencer Krug from his ever-growing resume of musical endeavors: Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, and Fifths of Seven. If so, you’ll recognize that distinctive voice layered with dreamy synthesizer runs in songs from his latest project, Moonface, when the band comes to The Talking Head Club inside Sonar. $10–$12 407 E. Saratoga St. 410-783-7888 www.sonarbaltimore.com Urbanite #97  july 2012  15

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16  july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

the goods

what ’s new in style, shopping & beyond by Rebecca Kirkman and j.m. Giordano

Technicolor Boh

Photos (clockwise from top left): Photo courtesy of Carlos Vigil; Photos by J.M. Giordano

As if Mr. Boh weren’t famous enough, now he gets a pop art makeover as Krylon Boh (www.carlosvigil.bigcartel.com) in a T-shirt created by Baltimore-based graphic designer Carlos Vigil. Influenced by pop artist Shepard Fairey, Vigil, who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, says the design was “created on a whim” and combines the original Krylon Spray paint logo with Baltimore’s mascot. The shirts aren’t in stores, but keep an extra $20 in your wallet—Vigil likes to sell his merch “guerrilla-style” out of a backpack at local events. Look for him at the next O’s game. —R.K.

A Vintage Touch

You thought Grandma’s hoard of empty biscuit tins just occupied useful space? At Studio C Jewelry & Gifts (822 W. 36th St.; 410-444-7979; www. studiocjewelry.net), vintage tin trays like those gain new life as earrings and necklaces. Owner Constance Scott moved her store to a former rowhouse in Hampden earlier this year, which gives her more room to display her handcut pieces in wooden dressers and old china cases. Pick up a bright floral tin belt buckle for $35 or a ring cut from a retro geometric pattern for $25. Delicate gemstone and antique glass necklaces run $50 and up. Check out the $5 earring dish, and you won’t leave empty-handed. —R.K.


When Ian Sayre was 8 years old, he read Spider-Woman and fell in love with comics. Now he channels that passion into his shop Gorilla King Comics (1711 Aliceanna St.; 410-327-0181) in Fells Point. Opened in February, the store caters to comic book nerds and newbies with classic gold- and silver-age comics, action figures, and Star Trek pizza slicers. Venture upstairs to join weekly games of Dungeons and Dragons. What sets the store apart? The staff’s encyclopedic knowledge, says Sayre. “We sell comics, we love comics—we are comics people.” —R.K.

Urbanite #97  july 2012  17

Tt The Artist 27, station north

TT, a filmmaker and MC whose sound combines elements of hip-hop, pop, and Bmore club and electronic music, has shared the stage with Wale, Dan Deacon, Phantogram, New Orleans bounce artist Vockah Redu, and club giant Johnny Blaze, among others. Her latest singles, “She Rockin” and “New New,” are available now on iTunes, and her forthcoming film, Dark City: Beneath the Beat, chronicles Baltimore Club dance and music culture. —J.M.G.

hat The African Print Snap back by Ira Cunningham $20 www.thecoffeeshop.bigcartel.com

sunglasses Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer $150

earrings TT: custom initial $15; Skull: 100% Swarovki crystals $20 a pair shirt Custom Lovelace flannel shirt with spike leather pocket $98

bracelets Arm Candy $15–$30

skull ring Lovelace $25

shorts Custom Lovelace vintage Levi’s camo print with gold studs $110

shoes Red Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star High tops $55

Photos by J.M. Giordano

18  july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Styled by Lovelace Showroom (1201 Light St.; 410-528-5978; www.lovelacetoujours.com)

the goods

Michael Haskins jr 21, fells point

Hip-hop artist Michael Haskins Jr. has been playing out for more than two years. His mixtape, Caparison, presented by Billions of Currency clothing, has been in production since 2009 and dropped in May. He’s currently booking shows throughout the Baltimore area.

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shirt Ten Deep Bucaneer Jersey $60

necklace Actual Pain Serpent Necklace $75

shorts Tan Pacific Convertible Shorts $90

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Styled by PedX Baltimore (1715 Aliceanna St.; 410-276-0038; www.pedxbaltimore.com)

Urbanite #97  july 2012  19

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people  / update  /  urbanite project  /  voices

Stone Cold

Formstone is the façade that Baltimore loves to hate. Bob Ibex tells us why we should still care about it. By marianne amoss


sk Bob Ibex about his career as a Balti more Formstone man, and it’s clear he’s proud. “It’s like singing,” he says. “You just have to have the talent.” And he did—Ibex started working with the faux stone in the 1940s, when he was 16. His teachers had discouraged him from returning to school because of his dyslexia, so he only had a third-grade-level formal

Stoop stories: Bob Ibex in front of the Formstone façade he installed for a permanent exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum

The 2012 urbanIte

P r o j e c T:


Fc ho o d allenge

Urbanite Project 2012 HealtHy food film series: July 11, 2012, 6 p.m.

Weight of the Nation screening

Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224 Weight of the Nation is the forthcoming HBO documentary that examines the obesity epidemic in the United States. Join us for a discussion following the screening

August 15, 2012, 6 p.m.

Queen of the Sun screening

The Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201

Queen of the Sun documents the honeybee crisis; since 2006, honeybees have been disappearing from beehives throughout America. Join us for a discussion following the screening

For more details, visit www.urbaniteproject.com. InStItutIonal partnerS


American Communities Trust | Enoch Pratt Library | Greater Baltimore Committee The Marc Steiner Show | Richardson Farms | Zia’s

22  july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Photo by J.M. Giordano

people / update  baltimore observed education, with two years of “tool school” afterward. While his peers were studying, he’d roam the streets of his East Baltimore neighborhood, admiring the handiwork of the stone men. “I saw people doing it and improved it,” Ibex says. As an adult, he became a master of the medium, which, at its height, covered vast sections of the city. Formstone, for the uninitiated, is faux stone. Although the material goes by many brand names—Perma-Stone, Bond Stone, Silverstone—in Baltimore it’s all known colloquially as Formstone. It’s a mix of concrete and other materials (Ibex says each company’s particular recipe was top secret) that is applied over metal lath that has been nailed to a building’s exterior. The final layer is formed—either by hand or with a mold—to resemble individual stones. Patented by Albert Knight of Lasting Products company, Formstone became popular in Baltimore among rowhouse owners who were wary of the cost of upkeeping their houses’ brick fronts, which were sometimes porous and needed regular painting. The story goes that European immigrants thought the faux stone made their houses resemble the castles of their homelands (there is a locally made documentary about Formstone called Little Castles). Ibex says that’s nonsense, though: In his experience, it was actually more popular in neighborhoods where there were no immigrants. These days, most people are ardent opponents of Formstone. It’s out of style and almost universally despised, having gone the way of wood paneling, stucco, and many other decorative yet utilitarian touches that enjoyed a brief and furious heydey—and are now made fun of. Our John Waters famously dubbed it “the polyester of brick.” Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to understate Formstone’s effect on this city. Along with marble stoops and painted screens, it is an iconic symbol of Baltimore. “It’s a marker,” says Eric Holcomb, author of The City as Suburb, about the history of Northeast Baltimore. “It says something about what’s happening” in a neighborhood. In the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, its presence meant people cared about their homes and their neighborhood; in the ‘70s, however, preservationists began to lobby for the removal of Formstone, to uncover the original brick beneath and restore the original character of the historic houses. Brick became a symbol of gentrification, of progress; Formstone meant a neighborhood was old-fashioned. When Formstone was in vogue, Ibex did stone work, first on his own and then with a team of workers, who numbered as many as seventeen, as the Dixie Stone Company. In 1963, he purchased the Formstone Company, which Ibex says went out of business because it refused to lower its prices and was beaten out by companies who would do the same work for less money; Ibex got Formstone’s tools and materials but kept his company name. Unlike

“It’s like singing. You just have to have the talent.” some local companies (Ibex says there were as many as forty, at the height of stone’s popularity) who focused in one part of the city, Ibex’s men worked all over town. It was a good working life, he says. “You worked at a different place every day. You did something different all the time.” Neighbors used to walk up to the crews and ask for their house to be done next. Some companies created the stone shapes with molds—it’s known as “cast stone,” and Ibex says it “doesn’t take any talent” to do—but Ibex’s company hand-sculpted their stones. The colors were from a neutral palette: tan, ivory, gray, brown, maroon. Some houses still bear small plaques that were etched with the name of the company who did the stone work, but Ibex says he can often tell who did a house by the way the stone is formed—like identifying a fingerprint. After his many decades in the industry, Ibex is a recognized authority on the subject: He’s served as an expert trial witness, dating Formstone work. He also installed Formstone on a rowhouse erected for the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore’s installation at the Jim Rouse Visionary Center at the American Visionary Art Museum in 2004. It showcases a permanent display that includes two rowhouses, one of Formstone and one of brick, with painted screens and faux white-marble steps. Renowned folklorist Elaine Eff helped put the exhibit together. She says when Ibex did the Formstone installation on the house, he moved so fast she barely had time to snap photos. “He’s remarkable,” she says. These days, aside from repairing fireplaces and doorframes and doing the occasional interior install, Ibex’s main contact with Formstone is removing it, which he says is as easy as rolling up a carpet—but more sad. It bothers Ibex sometimes when Formstone is peeled off a building. “Some jobs were really nice work,” he says. “I don’t think people who did the work ever got the credit for it. Probably [a vast majority]of the city [is covered in Formstone] and you think, just a few people did that in just a few years.” Like Formstone itself, stone men like Ibex have are disappearing from Baltimore; Ibex’s longtime foreman, or “first man,” Cornelius “Butch” Shipley, passed away last fall. “He was fast, he was good,” Ibex says. “He and I worked together since he was 16 or 18.” Ibex, now 83, has recently undergone laser vision correction but says he’s not planning on giving up Formstone anytime soon. “I love to work,” he says. “The only way I’d retire is if I couldn’t see.”

Update by Lawrence Burney

more than a feeling A new movement has taken hold in Baltimore, as organizations like the Community Conferencing Center, rather than enforcing punishments, work to help children learn from their mistakes through empathy training—a quality that neuroscientists believe is embedded in our biological make-up (see “Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes,” Feb ’12 Urbanite). Baltimore’s City Springs school is practicing similar methods; the school’s Restorative Practices program “uses restorative circles and conferences to help students with conflict resolution, teaching them vital skills that will help them succeed in college, career, and life,” according to the Baltimore Curriculum Project. In just one year, student suspensions at the school fell from eighty-six to nine.

fast break Since the 1980s, lacrosse in the inner city has been virtually nonexistent, as football and basketball have become popular portals to higher education for urban youth. But that hasn’t stopped Baltimore from being a national powerhouse for the sport (see “Chasing A Goal,” May ’12 Urbanite). More than one hundred high school-and college-age lacrosse players are expected to participate in Blax Lax—a camp created specifically for laxers from city schools—this summer, the tenth anniversary of its founding. And Baltimore-based manufacturer STX, which claims to own the largest share of the U.S. lacrosse equipment market, has seen its sales triple over the past five years, according to the Baltimore Sun.

kick, push, coast For seven years, Stephanie Murdock has worked to build a skate park in Hampden’s Roosevelt Park. In mid-May her nonprofit, Skatepark of Baltimore, was still $15,000 short of its fundraising goal—one that would’ve secured $75,000 in matching funds from the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks (see “The Games People Play and Why Sports Matter,” Jun. ’12 Urbanite). By month’s end, Murdock raised $2,200 more than she needed, according to the Baltimore Sun, which means Skatepark of Baltimore qualifies for the matching grant promised by the city. Murdock hopes to break ground on the park later this year.

To take a virtual tour of some of Bob Ibex’s formstone houses, go to http://bit.ly/formstone. Urbanite #97  july 2012  23


Crossing the digital divide to accept food stamps at farmers markets By Rebecca Messner


he token problem” was the first item on the agenda at May’s Food Policy Advisory Committee meeting at the Baltimore City Department of Planning. In order to accept food stamps at the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar starting on July 1, the market will need to find a way to handle—and keep track of—several thousand wooden tokens that are as valuable as cash. Holly Freishtat, Baltimore City’s food policy director, brought up PVC piping—some markets buy the plastic pipes from Home Depot and saw them into usable cylinders that hold fifty tokens each. Marc Rey, president of the board of the Waverly Farmers Market, which has been accepting food stamps since 2010, uses fluorescent light covers affixed with plumbing fixtures on either end to store the market’s tokens. It’s not ideal, says Laura Flamm, nutrition associate at Maryland Hunger Solutions—the organization facilitating the introduction of federal nutrition benefits at Maryland farmers markets—that such an important initiative would depend on plastic tubes. “In order to be able to accept this technology, to accept this plastic money, you have to go back to some sort of alternative currency,” she says. Farmers markets across the country haven’t always had this problem—food stamps used to come in the form of paper coupons that were easily exchanged for fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2000, Congress mandated that the benefits go digital, and those paper coupons turned into Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The cards, which in Maryland are called Independence Cards, function like credit or debit cards—which makes accepting them in cashonly farmers markets complicated. To make things more difficult, EBT machines, which deduct money from Independence Cards, cost around $1,000 each and require a trained staff to operate them. To avoid the complication of spending tens of thousands of dollars to equip each farmer with his or her own machine, markets have opted to purchase (or rent) a single machine, where customers can swipe their cards for money to use at the market before they shop. It’s illegal to trade cash for federal benefits, however—hence the tokens. Although it’s a somewhat awkward solution, Freishstat says that for now, it’s better than nothing. Solutions like the iPhone app “Mobile Market+”—currently available for authorized farmers markets in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Texas—give individual farmers the ability to swipe EBT cards using their

24  july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

smartphones (provided they all have smartphones). Freishtat says this kind of technology is something she hopes Baltimore can embrace in the future, but the city can’t afford to wait for it. “We have food desert access issues now,” she says, “so we don’t want to wait.” The Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar will join the six other farmers markets across the city that currently accept federal nutrition assistance—which includes food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) benefits. Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA), which operates the market, thinks this program can only bring more people to the market. “I think any time you have a program like this, the potential for increased traffic is good,” he says. “The most important thing in my mind is making the market accessible to people.” In 2011, Waverly Farmers Market’s second year accepting food stamps, Rey estimates they made 1,500 transactions, which resulted in around $32,500 for the market. “We now have regular EBT customers who will buy most of their fruit and vegetables at our market. It was good for them, and it added more than $32,000 to our farmers,” he says. “So it helps all the way around.” Through funding from the Wholesome Wave Foundation, the Abell Foundation, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Maryland Hunger Solutions has also been able to implement the Baltimore Bucks Incentive Program at every market that accepts food stamps. When food stamp or WIC recipients pay with their WIC Fruits and Vegetable Check or their EBT card, they get double the amount

of money to spend at the market. To alert eligible customers to the program, Maryland Hunger Solutions, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Human Resources and the Eat Fresh Maryland Network, sent a mailing to 178,000 households this year. Although the Farm Bill, which affects food policy nationwide and is scheduled to be passed in September, contains a proposed $4.49 billion cut to SNAP benefits over ten years, it also has a proposed provision that would allow for more incentive matching programs like this one. “That’s something we’ve never seen in the Farm Bill,” says Flamm. “These incentive programs are taking off across the country.” The United States Department of Agriculture is also in the process of contributing $4 million to cover the costs of EBT machines at farmers markets—Freishtat hopes the city will receive one next year for the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar (this year, they’re renting). Accepting SNAP benefits at farmers markets is an immediate way to solve the problem of food insecurity in Baltimore, says Freishtat. “We want to see more grocery stores, but we also understand that that takes time. The Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar already exists—it’s been established for more than twenty-five years, and has more than 7,000 people coming every Sunday,” she says. “Farmers markets bring the excitement back to food around fruits and vegetables, and they create community, bringing the culture back into agriculture,” Freishtat adds, quoting food ethics guru Wendell Berry. “That’s the epitome of farmers markets.”

urbanite project / voices  baltimore observed

Crafting the Remix An award-winning playwright, rapper, and composer, Will Power is breaking new ground in modern theater by mixing hip hop and traditional drama.

left photo by J.M. Giordano; right photo by Joan Marcus photography

Interview by Ron Cassie

Will Power’s acclaimed solo show, Flow, which he has performed around the world, demonstrates how stories are passed down through generations even while the art of storytelling changes. His adaptation of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes (part of the Oedipus trilogy), updated as The Seven, enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run. His two-act play Fetch Clay, Make Man, based the unlikely 1965 meeting of Lincoln Perry, better known as the black film actor Stepin Fetchit, and Muhammad Ali, the newly crowned heavyweight champion and recent Muslim convert, is scheduled for a run in New York in 2013.

maybe not. And we could turn it into a jam session, a battle. We could turn it into something. Make something out of nothing. Urb: How is hip hop connected to older art forms?

wp: Hip hop is a music that’s created by African Americans. That’s one of our contributions to the world. We have created every musical form in the last one hundred years, except for reggae, and even that was part of the African Diaspora. I’m not on a superiority trip; there are reasons for it. House music, techno, go-go, funk, soul, R & B, blues, soul, jazz, gospel, rock ’n’ roll, rock, doo wop, everything was created by black culture—and most of the dances, too. Hip hop is just like the next thing. It’s an ancestral line.

Urb: I saw a discussion you did online, via Skype or a similar technology, talking to audience in Katmandu about the history of hip hop. The globalization of hip hop itself is a remarkable story.


Why is hip hop so tied to geography, a neighborhood or place, if you will, as part of its identity?

wp: I remember growing up [in San Francisco] and seeing pictures of Dizzy Gillespie and jazz musicians going on these trips sponsored by the State Department, using jazz music as a uniter around the world and kind of a point of communication. And it’s interesting, in the last five or ten years I’ve really seen the State Department engage hip hop artists in that endeavor. It’s kind of been more my peers, people who have been hip hop theater artists who are naturally teachers. I just got back from Kyrgyzstan last week, and every country has a different perspective of what hip hop is. Urb:

You’ve said to understand hip hop, you have to understand the statement “Problem equals opportunity.”

wp: To me, that’s the underlying principle of hip hop. It’s what hip hop celebrates. If you look at it in the more archetypal way, you see an MC like Jay-Z or 50 Cent. Not that all MC’s are from the ghetto, but it’s that idea that they’re from the ’hood, sold drugs, and now they’re taking that and talking about the pain and the complexities of what they went through and using that as fodder for hip hop lyrics. It’s this idea that you have this issue and you flip it into opportunity.

Urb : And hip hop got its start from the same equation?

wp: In the Katmandu thing, I talked about the beginning of hip hop [in the South Bronx], how it manifested itself, whether it’s gangsta rap or a mash-up. What is the problem, and how do you turn it into an opportunity? ‘We have nothing; we don’t even have a space. We don’t have electricity. What are we going to do? All there are are abandoned buildings. All we have is our grandmother’s turntable.’ That was the Bronx in the 1970s. Even on the West Coast, we got it a few years later, in the early ’80s, we didn’t have too much either. Maybe we had a radio—maybe,

wp: I think it’s biology. I’m not trying to get crazy, but you know, I’ve made a few trips to Africa, and in Africa you have the individual and you have the family … What they have that we kind of lost in a way is the tribe, right? The tribe over there is really influential. I remember one time over there, there were three tribes in one area and each tribe spoke a different language. So in my opinion, what has replaced that—or how we try to continue that—is with the neighborhood. The neighborhood is the modern day village. My neighborhood is my ’hood. We lost the tribe, what the tribe was, and it got diluted or became different. I think part of it is a reclaiming of the truth that is in us, and the lessons that reflect the neighborhood. Think about how beautifully interwoven a neighborhood is: You might have a cousin, and you know the family that she married into. But that interwovenness can also lead to conflict and even violence. The rapper, the MC, is like a griot, a West African storyteller, and it comes from that same tradition of telling these local stories, and by telling these local stories we reach the global.

To read an extended version of this interview, visit bit.ly/will_ power. Urbanite #97  july 2012  25


Shake it to the ground: Rye Rye, who was born and raised in Baltimore, has her sights set on a larger audience with the release of her debut album, Go! Pop! Bang!. “I still put on for Baltimore,” she says, “but I’m movin’ forward.”

photo by J.M. Giordano


Rye Rye & Blaqsta take Ba rr to a global ltimore club music audience

world Town b









“i hate doing that part,” says Ryeisha Berrain, just after a complex dance routine during which she beamed with such a wide, infectious smile that it’s hard to believe her statement. Family, friends, and dozens of onlookers crammed inches away from the Baltimore-born Berrain, her DJ, and two backup dancers for the 21-year-old rapper’s in-store performance at the Sound Garden, the Fells Point record shop, in mid-May.

Better known as Rye Rye, Berrain was promoting the release of her wellreceived debut album, Go! Pop! Bang!, three days earlier on Interscope Records. Petite, dark-skinned, with a splash of blonde in the middle of her short fringe of black hair and with a rainbow of bright, eye-catching patterns on her form-fitting outfit, Berrain was making one of what have become increasingly rare appearances in Charm City. And the audience, which included her 2-year-old daughter, patiently waited for her short but hugely energetic performance. Her album, drawing positive reviews from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, among others, missed the Billboard 200, but hit No. 23 on the Rap Albums chart and No. 12 on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart. It also briefly reached No. 1 on iTunes’ electronic chart the day of release.

Whether or not Baltimore realizes it, Rye Rye’s accomplishing things that few, if any, rappers from her city have done. Simply having an album released on a major label is a rare milestone for a Baltimore MC. The last time that happened was a decade ago, when B. Rich released the album 80 Dimes on Atlantic Records. His 2002 single, “Whoa Now,” provided only brief success, however, and B. Rich was saddled with one-hit wonder status. About a dozen of other hometown MCs proceeded to sign to major labels but never quite get as far as releasing an album.

ph ot o by jo

Supastarr: “I wanna say it was magical, but magical would be an understatement,” Blaqstarr says of his initial work with Rye Rye.

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they did a really good job of presenting that. At the same Now, not only is Rye Rye’s album on the shelves at big time, Rye Rye’s a fan of all music, and she sticks to her box stores across America, but her friend, labelmate, and roots by still having that Baltimore edginess to it.” fellow Baltimore native, Blaqstarr, will join her with his Rye Rye began recording six years ago, but in one way own major label debut later this year. her career enjoyed overnight success. At 15, a conversa“There has never been a Baltimore pop artist,” says tion with one of her sister’s friends turned to music. “He Brandon “Say Wut” Tennessee, a Baltimore-based DJ and was on the phone with her one time, and he just randomly producer who sees how Blaqstarr and Rye Rye could break asked her did I know how to rap. I don’t know why, I don't that tradition. “There has never been a Baltimore artist know if he liked the way my voice sounded or what,” Berthat touches all these different elements. You have pop rain recalls. “Earlier that day I was writing a song, and it music, Baltimore club, hip-hop all in one.” inspired me to make a whole track. So I wrote the song When we spoke before the show at Sound Garden, I’d out, and then I called his voicemail and I rapped the song asked her about how she’d thrived more outside Baltimore on his answering machine.” than she ever had in the city, and the question seemed to That friend happened to be Charles Smith, a.k.a. still weigh on her mind at the release party. “I always had, Blaqstarr, who at the time was ruling the city as one of like, halfway support within the city,” she says. “I’m not the most popular producers in Baltimore club music, a worrying about that stuff, or whether the whole city supfiercely unique and aggressive fusion of hip hop and porting me, because I had buzz outside of the city. I still house music that had thrived on local dance floors since put on for Baltimore, but I’m moving forward.” the early ’90s. “I wanna say it was magical, but magical Berrain recalls that earlier in her career, the lack of atwould be an understatement,” Smith says of his initial tention in Baltimore was a bigger concern. “At first it was work with Rye Rye. At the time, Blaqstarr was in the like a big thing for me, because I had people around me process of transitioning from a local hero to broader recthat was stressing the issue, like, ‘Why is 92Q not playognition, signing to dance music tastemaker Diplo’s Mad ing your songs?’” Despite this early silence locally, other Decent label. Rye Rye's first song with Blaqstarr, “Shake stations have been on board. Recently, her single Boom It To The Ground,” became the breakout single off of his Boom reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play chart, first EP for Mad Decent, 2007’s Supastarr. and last year another, Never Will Be Mine, peaked at No. Within months of their first collaboration, Smith 11. She has 37,000 followers on Twitter, and her YouTube introduced Berrain to Diplo’s most famous collaborator, channel has more than half a million views. critically acclaimed British-Sri Lankan singer M.I.A. Soon, This summer she’s opening for the pop act Scissor both Rye Rye and Blaqstarr were signed to M.I.A.’s InterSisters on their North American tour in more than a scope imprint, N.E.E.T. Recordings. Both M.I.A. and Diplo dozen cities. No Baltimore date is scheduled, but the tour had built international followings with a savvy fusion is scheduled to go to Washington, D.C., for two nights at of dozens of regional dance music subgenres, including the 9:30 Club. Baltimore club music. Blaqstarr and Rye Rye became their Tennessee was a peer of Blaqstarr’s when the two strongest link to that scene, as well as ambassadors of became the most popular young producers in the BaltiBaltimore club to the world. more club scene nearly a decade ago. And over the past year, Tennessee’s worked closely with Rye Rye, producing songs for her and then becoming her tour DJ for live performances. “It’s just phenomenal, how her fan base has grown, and how it’s been growing in diversity, with a heavy involvement with female [fans] and the gay community,” he says. “Industry-wise and label-wise, [Interscope] really push the pop side of her music, and I think

Track Record

Although several successful urban acts have launched from Baltimore, including Dru Hill and Mario, the city’s homegrown hip-hop and club music scenes have long struggled for recognition. Here’s a brief overview of some of the artists who have flirted with the national spotlight over the past two decades with hit singles and major label contracts, before Rye Rye and Blaqstarr.

2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog When Baltimore club trailblazer DJ Equalizer set the city on fire with a remix of 2 Live Crew’s C’mon Babe, local radio personality Frank Ski spun it into a national novelty hit in 1992, with the independently released single Doo Doo Brown appearing on Billboard’s R&B chart.

Sagat Funk Dat, a humorous rant with rapper Sagat complaining about daily annoyances over a funky house track, reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Dance/Club chart in 1994, with an accompanying album released on the New York dance label Maxi Records.

Urbanite #97  july 2012  29

Although Rye Rye and Blaqstarr only record or perform together occasionally now, maintaining separate careers, there’s still a strong bond. And although there’s no blood relation, Smith often refers to Berrain as family. When asked about Go! Pop! Bang!, featuring tracks from mainstream dance producers instead of his beats, Smith speaks warmly of Rye Rye’s success: “It’s actually a beautiful thing, [like seeing] a family member graduate.” Berrain still looks forward to collaborating with her mentor and breaking new ground. “It’s so funny because when we work together in the studio now, we don’t really do Baltimore club music,” she says. “We experiment with different stuff, crazy stuff.” Blaqstarr, however, was never typical of Baltimore club music. The genre had been built on a foundation of crisp breakbeats, James Brownproduced bursts of snare drums, and tambourines looped into tight, fast grooves by producers like DJ Equalizer, DJ Technics, and DJ Booman. The tracks were often remixes of popular songs, but sometimes featured original vocal hooks, shouted and chanted by the deep, commanding voices of producers and performers like Rod Lee and Jimmy Jones. But by the early 2000s, Baltimore club had begun to mutate and take new shapes, and soon Blaqstarr was the catalyst for bold new sounds. The contrast between Blaqstarr’s music and the club music that proceeded is stark. His first local hits in 2004 and 2005 were songs like Get My Gun and Tote It, featuring the percussive sound effects of a gun being cocked and fired, as well as ominous lyrics ("I told y’all I tote it/ put the bullet in the Glock and blowed it") sung in a strange, high warble that was so eerie and androgynous that they sounded like they could be sung by a man or a woman. Blaqstarr’s only real precedent in Baltimore club music was Miss Tony, a drag queen who had become a star on the local scene in the ’90s with his strange singsong hooks. Blaqstarr also stripped away many of the snare drums, claps, and tambourines of other Baltimore club tracks, often leaving nothing more than an insistent kick drum pattern and a swirling array of synths and wordless vocal loops. His sound was as alien yet instantly appealing to Baltimore club fans as Timbaland's sound was to R&B fans a decade earlier. Smith had begun DJing in high school, which soon lead him to producing his own tracks. “I started off DJing, and then from there, studying and researching with my hands on, playing the music, got my hands on more, started thinking music. From there I just cut off all the limits, my hands on everything, every instrument,” he explains over the phone from

B. Rich B. Rich broke out in 2002 with the single “Whoa Now,” produced by Baltimore club fixture Dukeyman, and was signed by Atlantic records. His major label tenure was brief and only moderately successful. “Whoa Now” grazed the Hot 100 at No. 98, and his album 80 Dimes reached No. 100 on the Billboard 200—a high watermark for Baltimore hip hop’s mainstream exposure.

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New York, just before performing the afterparty for the Internet Week New York festival. That teenage obsession has since paid serious creative and professional dividends, particularly since signing with M.I.A. and relocating his base of operations to Los Angeles. In the ensuing years, his already unique sound has gotten even more diverse. Most of the music Blaqstarr has released since moving to L.A. has been a natural progression from his early work, slowly moving away from the demands of the club. His 2011 Divine EP and Blaqstarr The Mixtape were largely downtempo affairs, featuring melodic tracks that resembled R&B more than anything else. One of the only Baltimore club breakbeats on the mixtape was smothered in hard rock guitars and a guest verse by conscious rap icon Talib Kweli. It’s compelling and curious music, but a far cry from the dance floor fillers he made his name on. Blaqstarr may be the more seasoned and original talent, but it makes sense that Interscope/N.E.E.T. would be more comfortable releasing Rye Rye’s album first. Of Blaqstarr, Tennessee marvels at his old friend’s iconoclastic approach to creating music: “He wants to do what he wants to do.” There was a point at which Blaqstarr seemed poised to become a mainstream force, rather than the favorite of cool kids and regional dance music connoisseurs that he’s become in recent years. One of the most influential DJs in the Baltimore club scene, club queen K-Swift, had helped make Blaqstarr’s tracks hugely popular on local radio request lines. And when major labels started expressing some interest in the scene around 2006, K-Swift [real name: Khia Edgerton] began pairing Blaqstarr’s tracks up with various local rappers for crossover hits. One of Blaqstarr’s early club songs, “Hands Up, Thumbs Down,” was re-recorded by the group Deuce Tre Deuce, with Rye Rye shouting the song’s indelible hook, which was later repurposed by M.I.A. for her song “World Town.” A teenager calling himself Young Leek briefly netted a Def Jam deal with the Blaqstarr-produced track “Jiggle It,” and street rapper D.O.G. got signed to Universal off of his remix of Blaqstarr’s ode to K-Swift, “Ryda Gyrl.” In July 2008, K-Swift’s reign over Baltimore club was tragically cut short when she died in a swimming pool accident at the end of a celebratory weekend in which she’d performed with many of her hometown contemporaries, including Rye Rye and Blaqstarr. Smith, who hasn’t spoken much publicly of K-Swift since her passing, simply says, “That’s my baby,” with warmth and affection in his voice when her name comes up. Berrain,

Bossman After impressive sales for a 2004 independent album and a series of local radio hits that included “Oh,” local rapper Bossman signed a seven-figure contract with Virgin Records. Unfortunately, Dupri left the label before Bossman was able to secure an album release date, and he soon lost momentum and went back to the independent grind, recently changing his rapping handle to Travis Davon.

Young Leek A New Jersey-born teenager who’d recently located to Baltimore, Young Leek quickly became the breakout star of DJ K-Swift’s Next Level Records stable of Baltimore club-influenced rappers in 2005, with the Blaqstarr-produced single “Jiggle It.” A Def Jam contract followed, but his career prospects quickly fizzled.

who looked up to K-Swift as one of the only female role models in the club scene, laments that they didn’t get a chance to know each other better. “I feel like we just never got the chance to ever cross paths, because, y’know she had her thing going on, she had a whole team of guy artists, and Blaqstarr just had me.” Ultimately, Blaqstarr’s mainstream moves with K-Swift’s artists never panned out, and he found greater success among the rapidly growing niche audiences to whom M.I.A. and Diplo introduced him. His Interscope debut, due out later this summer, is titled Here We Are, and the first two singles offer an intriguing view of what’s to come. “Roses” is a dark, dusky R&B ballad in the vein of the Divine EP, while “She Is Love” is a summery pop song with guitar strums and bleepy new wave keyboards. The song’s spoken bridge concludes with Blaqstarr proclaiming, “I have extra abilities, baby, and one is: I communicate with cats.” If he’d pitched the song to Cee-Lo Green, it’d probably be a Top 40 smash. But commercial expectations for Here We Are, which has not charted with any of its advance singles, appear pitched low at the moment. Overall, while Blaqstarr’ s music has become more insular and idiosyncratic, Rye Rye has been venturing outward. She initially completed an album in 2009 with M.I.A. and Blaqstarr and released a thunderous single, “Bang,” featuring both. But that year, Berrain got pregnant and decided to put her career on temporary hold to have her baby. “Physically, I knew I could do it. Just because I had a baby, that doesn’t mean that can stop me from performing,” she says. “But mentally I was kinda like, ‘How will the record label feel about it?’” Fortunately for Berrain, her label was run by M.I.A., who famously performed with Jay-Z and Kanye West at the Grammys at nine months pregnant and understood Rye Rye’s situation. When Rye Rye rebooted her album for its eventual 2012 release, Interscope lined up a murderer’s row of hitmakers to produce and guest on tracks: Akon, Tyga, Robyn, Pharrell Williams, RedOne (Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”), Bangladesh (Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”), and Play-N-Skillz (Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”). The album became a stylistic hodgepodge with more Baltimore club-flavored older tracks like “Shake It To The Ground” and “Bang” relegated to bonus tracks on the album’s deluxe edition. The title, Go! Pop! Bang!, was meant to reflect a sense of noisy excitement, but the age-old phrase “go pop”—as in to abandon one’s roots for mainstream exposure—also rings true as an unintended interpretation. Rye Rye is still very much a product of Baltimore club culture, however—not too far removed from an adolescence of learning the latest dances and attending all-ages parties at Hammerjacks. Her current touring DJ remains Say Wut, and her stage show includes their fantastic collaboration, “DJ Go.” Rye Rye also recently collaborated with the Baltimore

D.O.G. On the heels of Young Leek, local gangsta rapper D.O.G., who’d already notched one radio hit in 2005 with “Hello,” jumped on a remix of Blaqstarr’s “Ryda Gyrl.” That track’s popularity led, however, to an ultimately fruitless deal with Universal Records.

DJ Class One of the very first producers to help mold Baltimore club in the early ‘90s, DJ Class made a major and unexpected comeback to the scene in late 2008 with the smash single “I’m The Ish,” which fused classic Bmore breaks with of-the-moment AutoTune vocal hooks. Superstars like Kanye West and Lil Jon liked the song enough to appear on official remixes, and the song charted on Billboard. DJ Class signed to Universal Republic, and although an album never materialized, he’s remained a fixture on the mainstream dance/rap scene, producing for stars like Pitbull.

rapper DDm, who’s signed to the stalwart Baltimore label Unruly Records. And her 2011 mixtape, RYEot powRR, was a club-heavy effort mixed by Unruly’s DJ Sega and featuring a track with local legends K.W. Griff and Pork Chop. While many Baltimore MCs decided to rap over club beats as a commercial maneuver and had to develop ways to flow over the fast beats, Rye Rye’s effortless double-time verses sound like it’s never occurred to her to rap any other way over any other kind of music. Although Rye Rye hasn’t joined Blaqstarr in L.A. and comes home to Baltimore as often as she can, both have gone Hollywood in other ways. Rye Rye made her big screen debut earlier this year in the film 21 Jump Street and wrote the film’s theme song. Bang was featured in the movies Step Up 3 and Fast And Furious. Blaqstarr says that one of his tracks, “Victim,” a collaboration with the production team Win Win, is set to appear on the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film, Magic Mike. In some ways, the unexpected delay in Rye Rye’s debut has completely changed the context in which she exists as an artist. When she began her career half a decade ago, the presence of female MCs in hip hop was at an all time low, urban radio was ruled by slow Southern beats, and her mentor, M.I.A., was a darling of rock critics but hardly a household name. In the ensuing years, Nicki Minaj became rap’s first female superstar in ages, and Rye Rye now joins a quirky new wave of young women in rap like Azealia Banks and Kreayshawn. Meanwhile, the influence of Baltimore club, as well as other forms of uptempo dance music, has gradually crept into hip-hop radio. And M.I.A. has become a bona fide pop star, releasing the ubiquitous 2008 smash “Paper Planes” (Rye Rye appeared on the official remix of the song) and performing alongside Madonna at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. It’s too soon to tell whether Go! Pop! Bang! will benefit or suffer from fitting so neatly into the current zeitgeist. The album debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, but time will tell if all of the touring and singles build a substantial fan base. “Boom Boom,” which interpolates a ’90s Eurodance hit by Vengaboys, is a sweetly catchy pop rap anthem in the vein of Nicki Minaj’s blockbuster single “Super Bass,” but the song and its cutely Nintendo-themed video haven’t caught on yet with a larger audience. When asked about how it feels to go from being an anomaly to a beneficiary of several trends and cultural shifts that her music predated, Berrain confesses she’d rather be unique. “I feel like with all the female rappers that’s out nowadays anyway, everybody has their own style,” she says. “I have my own lane.”

Los Currently Rye Rye’s biggest competition for the most famous Baltimore-bred rapper on the national scene, Los has bounced around the music industry for nearly a decade, signing with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records for a few years. He then left the label, building a monumental independent buzz, before signing with Bad Boy once again in 2012.

Urbanite #97  july 2012  31

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poetry I Iraq duffle still stuffed, without alarm he wakes late afternoon, troops out in camouflage from Mother’s rental near Druid Hill and Zoo to recon Friday’s long creep home. Rush-hour sky squints over dusk-troweled Baltimore, over smokestacks that have huffed their last and pigeons juried on their wires, Falls Road draped in chain-link necklace, wending north toward heights and farms to fade into dirt at the Mason-Dixon line. Here the expressway dangles lofty destinations over red, unmoving sea of tail-lights and fume. Horns swell like an orchestra tuning toward makeshift crescendo, then blend down to drone. Closer now, a face putties its window, the steering wheel like a clock with broken, frozen hands, these sips of sleep and tinny rations trekking him back, Ramadi to Fallujah, idles dying like jeeps at checkpoint, and yet, somewhere in the silent babble of cellphone towers a welling hum, a high-pitched hymn pricks ears, pries eyes, grips flowering into palms of explanation—the Emergency at Sinai— its ambulance lights pulsing trees and brush as cars clear throats, shift on haunches, revving to drive home, while nearer now the siren wails the night like a newborn.

Recon by Richard Krohn

III At last his Inner Harbor dawns, wrappers crabbing sideways across the promenade, bits of Friday night and rainbows of oil eddying like sleep in the corner of an eye. He yawns aloft with the gulls as they spy buns on the shores of the fishless water, their songs among the buildings echoing histories he now is part of—USS Constellation, Federal Hill cannons firing national anthem, the waters themselves marrying Harbor to Bay, crossing oceans, seas and gulfs, back up the Tigres and Euphrates, Fertile Crescent, Cradle of Civilization, the very spot where best-guess biblical historians imagine the Garden of Eden.



Down Mount Royal and its back-slap Happy Hours where the boys drown him in beers,

Following St. Paul, he wanders all the way to Waverly, its farmers’ market swimming in basiled salmon flanked by smokes of bacon. Snow-white mushrooms cool jalapeños,

past opera house, symphony, monument to Washington overlooking Central Booking, well past midnight across Pleasant and Gay, down row-housed back streets of his crack-crab city, projects without name, shattered winks, green blades crackling under foot, brown-bagged bottles as broken as their entrance-way puppets, each section of sidewalk a prayer-stained window, past the million-brick Shot Tower where back in the day molten lead dropped two hundred feet through still air, spinning and cooling into perfect buckshot, raining solids into a vat of water. The Expressway empties last-calls onto President St., Jones Falls itself spitting into harbor. Near the Civil War Museum he no longer needs to tour, a grunting shadow streams relief onto brick and pavement, shakes, genuflects and shuffles off, the steam ghosting into late-night cold and dark.

portabellas arch large as dark umbrellas. Sage vendors and former flower children smile their stoned wheat while peasant breads puff upper crust and Koreans sell Danish to Africans and Indians. Doves in store-bought fatigues hawk flyers to the death of capital punishment, and a hustling essence dressed in laundry pleads with profs to clean the system. Instead he’s jarred by Gold Rush honey, by marmalades gleaming orange slivered rinds like bees ambered in time, by heads of escarole that nod in beds of cheese-wheeled trucks while ginger farmer fingers tender romaine, all of this hand-to-hand making change for hearts of celery and artichoke, for unshelled peas and shoots of asparagus until a downpour drives him into the dry aisles and stocked shelves of a Safeway where he maneuvers toward checkout, plastics primed for bag and swipe, Mother’s coupons finally offered for redemption. Urbanite #97  july 2012  33

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Roomie Love For artists who share studio space, the challenges involved are worth the added inspiration by andrew Zaleski

photography by j.m. giordano

Katie Pumphrey, 24 / Sam Allerton Green, 24 For painters Katie Pumphrey and Sam Allerton Green, both of whom took up residency at the Creative Alliance last July, it’s all about a little friendly competition. “We have paint races,” says Green. “Whoever can cover the canvas faster buys the next round,” Pumphrey says, referring to the bar at the Marquee Lounge on the Creative Alliance’s first floor. To which Green confesses, a bit dolefully, “I don’t win.” While the promise of a free beer is certainly enticing, the real value for the two Maryland Institute College of Art graduates—who happen to be dating—is that they share a studio.

“We’re sharing a passion for this,” says Green. “And we’re sharing a life together, so it’s cool.” Green’s paintings overflow with vibrant colors— green, yellow, and orange cadmiums—and focus on objects, like his painting Fish Bowl, whereas Pumphrey’s paintings are more subdued, like her work of three children sharing a game of Uno. Painting in the same studio affords Pumphrey and Green the time to talk about each other’s work (as well as an unused canvas here and there), their style, and technique. But it’s not without challenges. “Sometimes I want to talk to Sam, my boyfriend, and sometimes I want to talk to Sam, my studio mate,” says Pumphrey. What’s more, because they’re dating and painting in the same studio, outside observers

sometimes view the completed canvases hanging around the room as artwork done by the same hand. “People tend to glaze, to see this mass of goop, which is a challenge,” says Green. “But when we see something similar, it pushes us to be totally different, to come from left field—which you wouldn’t traditionally have in a studio by yourself.” Pumphrey says that because she never shared a studio before, the experience now has pushed her to take new chances with her own artwork. “It makes you not settle,” she says. And while, on occasion, both Green and Pumphrey want their own time in the studio to paint in solitude, scheduling that time usually isn’t an issue—or is a matter easily alleviated with a quick drink. Urbanite #97  july 2012  35

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Meghan Flanigan, 38 Eve Hanan, 41 “It seemed hopeless at first,” says dancer Eve Hanan. For-

tunately for her studio mate, fellow dancer Meghan Flanigan, Hanan was only talking about the cracked, neglected wooden floor—not exactly an ideal surface for doing pirouettes in bare feet. “We spent days cleaning it up and putting the polyurethane down—we really bonded doing this floor,” says Flanigan. Flanigan and Hanan moved into their studio—an expansive, empty room with a skylight on the third floor of Station North’s Load of Fun building—last year. They split their time in the space but schedule weekly time together to solicit input on each other’s choreography, which is somewhat odd given the differences in their styles: Flanigan is trained in modern dance, while Hanan’s background is in traditional Middle Eastern dance. Although, according to Flanigan, neither thinks of the other as a traditional dancer. “Both of us are really engaged in sort of probing and experimenting and pushing the boundaries,” she says. Pushing the boundaries, for them, can be as familiar as Hanan using images, including Arabic script, to inform her dancing while Flanigan searches for ways to incorporate a head-mounted camera into her choreography, or as strange as doing a joint public performance in which Flanigan sticks her own fingers in her mouth and Hanan wraps her hands around audience members’ necks. Or working on “authentic movement” during their shared studio time, where each takes ten minutes to just move around the room while the other observes, before sitting down and talking through the other person’s steps. “It can help to have somebody outside of my tradition share their opinion about what they see or their thoughts about it,” Hanan says. “That can really dislodge my thoughts and help me be more creative.” To that effect, it’s more the conversations they have with one another, says Flanigan, that makes sharing a practice space worthwhile. “We talk a lot about what it means to be a performer, what it means to be a woman who’s nearing middle age, and our relationship to life and performing,” she says. Still, the central focus is, of course, on the dancing—for instance, when Flanigan asks Hanan where all her energy goes when she’s just shimmying in place. “The next time I come into the studio by myself, I think, where does the energy go?” says Hanan. “That’s such a great question that I never would’ve thought of without our shared time in the studio.”

Urbanite #97  july 2012  37

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feature  /  dining reviews  /  wine + spirits

Grain of Truth What’s up with the gluten-free craze? By Martha Thomas

The worst thing you can do, Dr. Alessio Fasano told me, “is go on a gluten-free diet.” OK, he wasn’t speaking in general. Fasano, founder and medical director of the Center for Celiac Disease Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has probably prescribed thousands of gluten-free diets and has been responsible for millions.

photo by J.M. Giordano

But now he was addressing me in particular, explaining that to get to the bottom of a gluten sensitivity—be it a wheat allergy or Celiac disease—it’s essential to have gluten in your system when the tests are done. I’d contacted this esteemed doctor, a world expert in celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, in the guise of journalist. I was—am—doing a story about the recent craze in gluten-free eating, a trend that translates into a $6.2 billion boon to the food industry.

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Has there really been a five-fold increase in cases of Celiac Disease? Is it because we are eating more gluten and our bodies are just saying no, or could the surge be due to an increased awareness about the disease among doctors—and their patients?

Were people turning up their noses at wheat products for legitimate, medically indicated reasons, I wanted to know, or because—like consuming grapefruit with every meal or gorging on bacon in lieu of fruit—it’s just the latest, easy-to-grasp way of shirking responsibility for reckless eating? But I’d steered our conversation to personal matters, which is pretty much why I’d taken on this article in the first place. I’d been off gluten since before Thanksgiving (I know, I know: Breadcrumb-based stuffing, pecan pie, holiday cookies, even my own birthday cake were to be avoided, or picked at sparingly, guiltily). For me, the gluten-free cure had been near-miraculous. It wasn’t about my weight (which can always use attention), but rather because I’d been reading a book, Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D. The book regaled with tale after tale of patients who’d seen extraordinary recoveries: from obesity, migraines, joint pain, diabetes, kidney disease—even potentially autism and Alzheimer’s— by eliminating wheat. Not only that, Davis made a case against the Industrial Food Complex, a foe I am always happy to engage. Modernday, genetically modified wheat, he writes, bears little resemblance to the Einkorn of old, the “staff of life” first cultivated by our ancestors. Today’s flour has been bred for higher yields and higher gluten content. Moreover, that flour may be even more ubiquitous than the evil high fructose corn syrup in products we consume. Stuff we would never imagine contains gluten: cottage cheese, chocolate, ice cream, chewing gum—even lipstick. I was hooked by Davis’ mention of rashes and skin outbreaks. For years, I’ve had a problem with hives—ranging from itchy red spots halted by Benadryl to massive allergic attacks that have landed me in the hospital hooked up to oxygen and heart monitors. Doctors helplessly used the word “idiopathic, ”or inexplicable. Sometimes (not always) the attacks came after eating pizza, so I’d long figured some kind of processed cheese might be the culprit.

Sure enough, not only did I lose 10 pounds within a couple of weeks going gluten-free, but my skin went smooth and my hives outbreaks stopped. Now Fasano was recommending a test for allergies, as well as the autoimmunie condition celiac disease (CD), the most extreme form of gluten sensitivity. I’d tested negative for wheat allergies in the past, but that happens, he told me—even for those with gluten sensitivities. Dr. Fasano had never heard of Wheat Belly, but he confirmed many of the claims put forth by its author. For years, he says, agronomists have been selecting wheat for a higher gluten content. “Three or four generations ago, you would find 7 to 8 percent gluten” in commercial flour, he says. “Now we’re talking 14 [percent].” Not only that, he adds, “your great-grandparents would leave bread out to rise overnight.” During those sixteen-plus hours, he says, yeast would digest many of the toxic elements in the flour. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and is prized for, among other things, its binding quality (its Latin root, after all, is “glue”). It is frequently extracted and added to other foods, both as a protein source and as a thickener. The versatility of wheat, says Fasano, “is linked to the amount of gluten. It’s what makes wheat so desirable: its elasticity.” For people with celiac disease, gluten blunts the finger-like “villi” in the intestine, thereby preventing the absorption of nutrients. And recently, researchers including Dr. Fasano have started to recognize and categorize a range of other gluten-related disorders. Fasano was born in Italy and trained at the University of Naples School of Medicine—where you don’t graduate, he says, “if you don’t know about celiac disease.” In Italy, the disease has been on the radar for some time, and in fact CD has long been presumed to be unique to white Europeans. However, as eating wheat (including our special version of genetically modified wheat, often distributed for relief during famines) has become more commonplace

Urbanite #97  july 2012  41


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feature  food + Drink around the world, gluten sensitivities and celiac disease have—surprise!—increased. As attention to CD has grown, so has the recognition of a range of other disorders, from wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis (which my symptoms seem to resemble) to gluten ataxia, an autoimmune disease characterized by loss of balance and coordination. These gluten sensitivities—shades of gray between celiac disease and no diagnosis at all (or patients told they had irritable bowel syndrome and sent home)—were formerly unrecognized by the medical establishment, says Fasano. Celiac disease is increasing rapidly. “The fact that we are in an epidemic is clear,” says Fasano, In 2003, he and a group of fellow scientists published a paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine on the prevalence of celiac in the U.S. The study concluded that celiac “appears to be a more common but neglected disorder than has generally been recognized.” At the time, says Fasano, “we were talking about forty to forty-five thousand people. Now we’re talking two hundred thousand.” These days, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) estimates that one in 133 Americans has celiac disease, but most of these cases go undiagnosed. Has there really been a five-fold increase in cases? Is it because we are eating more gluten and our bodies are just saying no, or could the surge be due to an increased awareness about the disease among doctors—and their patients? Could celiac or some other glutenrelated sensitivity be the reason you have irritable bowels, feel bloated, lose weight, or even end up with arthritis or Lupus? Jules Shepard says it took ten years for her celiac disease to be diagnosed, and she, like Dr. Fasano, says it’s a little of both. “I don’t want to say there’s something in the water,” she quips. “But there’s definitely something in the bread.” Shepard, who now resides in Columbia, was a prosecuting attorney living in North Carolina who seemed to suffer from constant ailments: “sinus infections, gas, irritable bowel syndrome,” she recalls. “I was in the courtroom all the time and was constantly bloated wearing my suit.” Finally, in 1999, she went to a doctor who asked if she’d been tested for celiac disease. At the time, there was no blood test. So Shepard had an upper endoscopy (in which a tube was sent down her throat to explore the GI tract), and learned that her villi “were flat,” she recalls. “The doctor said, ‘You have no villi.’” These days, Shepard describes her “journey” as a celiac patient to Dr. Fasano’s medical students each year. She’s also active in pushing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enact labeling standards for gluten-free products. (Her activist website is called 1in133. org. Shepard has also written a book about her experiences and sells gluten-free products,

including the flour she developed, at www. julesglutenfree.com. See sidebar.) Like the controversies surrounding organic food labeling in recent years, regulations concerning gluten-free designations have big implications for the food industry. The NFCA website says that sales of gluten-free products exceeded $6.2 billion in 2011, a nearly 17percent increase from the year before. Grocery stores like Giant Foods and Wegmans are picking up on the trend. Giant, for example, recently designed a bright green-and-blue shelf tag to identify more than 3,000 products labeled as gluten-free, says Brian Beatty, director of external communications. The labeling is a response to “overwhelming customer requests,” he says. Giant depends on the food companies to tell them which products are gluten-free. Wegmans recognizes the difference between “gluten free” and “made without gluten.” Company nutritionist Trish Kazacos notes that cross-contamination in the fresh food areas can occur if, for example, airborne particles of flour settle on a slicer used for cold cuts. Advocates like Shepard want to ensure that all products labeled gluten-free are—like Kelloggs gluten-free Rice Krispies, and her own flour— manufactured in a separate, wheat-free facility. Knowing if a food (or lipstick) contains gluten can be a matter of life or death for those with celiac disease. As Fasano says, “one crumb can turn on the autoimmune system as if it’s a full-blown attack.” So those with the disease have to purge their kitchens, ensuring that no stray grains of flour enter the premises. For most on gluten-free diets, the stray grains probably don’t matter. Fasano estimates that some 60 million people currently embrace some kind of gluten-free diet. Of those, he says, about 3 million may have CD, 16 to 18 million have a gluten sensitivity, and another 300,000 to 500,000 have wheat allergies. “The rest have no medical necessity to be on a gluten-free diet,” he says. “We’ve gone from one extreme to the other.” After both a blood test and an upper endoscopy, I thankfully, gratefully, thank the Goddess, tested negative for celiac disease, a condition that would have forced me to dismantle not only my kitchen cabinets, but my livelihood as a writer with a focus on food and restaurants. Yes, I’m sensitive to gluten. My skin gets all bumpy the day after I review an Italian restaurant or sample cupcakes at a new bakery. As it turns out, I’m among the 40 million or so Americans who actually benefit from cutting out wheat. And while pizza remains one of my favorite treats, I know that if I eat it, I may end up looking like a pepperoni pie.

Flour Power

The thought of eliminating flour from her diet was horrific to Jules Shepard. Before her diagnosis with celiac disease, she says, “all I ate was bread and pasta.” She had baked her way through law school as a stress reliever, selling her cakes and muffins at the student cafe. After the diagnosis, she says, “I ate nothing but rice and beans. All the joy went out of food.” At the time, gluten-free recipes for baked goods were complicated, she says. “Every recipe called for six different flours” to achieve texture and ensure rising. “I wanted to go back to the ‘scoop and go’ days” of all-purpose baking flour, she says. Shepard worked on a flour mix for two years, using various combinations of potato starch, corn flour, rice flour, tapioca, and xantham gum until she found a blend that worked. At the time, she didn’t realize how valuable her project might be to others. “I didn’t know a single other person who was gluten-free,” she recalls—until she met a compatriot with celiac disease in a mothers’ group and began taking her home-baked treats. The woman, says Shepard, “told me I’d changed her life and suggested I publish a cookbook.” Shepard’s self-published Nearly Normal Cooking has sold tens of thousands of copies on her website, www. julesglutenfree.com. She was later encouraged to write a book about her experiences with celiac disease. The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten Free was published in 2008 by Da Capo. Nearly Normal Cooking contained a recipe for the flour mix, but Shepard says readers described it as “a pain to make” and asked Shepard to blend it for them. “So along the way,” she says, “I somehow became a flour manufacturer.” — m.t.

Jules Gluten Free flour (along with several other Jules Gluten Free baking products) is available at the www.julesglutenfree.com and at local stores like Mom’s Organic Market and Roots. It runs about $20 for a 5-pound bag.

Urbanite #97  july 2012  43

City Cafe by Tracey Middlekauff


n the spring of 2010, Chad Gauss took over the kitchen at City Cafe, breathing new culinary life into the neighborhood fixture and earning accolades from both diners and critics. In February, Gauss left to open the Food Market in Hampden and was quietly replaced by Jared Rhine, formerly of Della Notte. As seamless transitions go, the regime change is certainly a success, as the quality and fundamental spirit of the regional American menu remains largely unchanged. The food here is not trendy or cutting edge, which is by no means a bad thing. For the most part, the dishes are well-seasoned takes on old favorites, sometimes with a fun or clever flourish. The plump seared sea scallops, for example, perch atop a wonderfully caramelized cauliflower “steak,” accompanied by feathery light asparagus tempura “fries.” The Kurobuta pork chop is enrobed in a crispy sage-prosciutto skin, a lovely juxtaposition with the tender and juicy chop within. While the Marsala mushroom sauce hit all the right earthy notes, it was surprising that the haricot verts, while fresh, were completely unseasoned. The steak frites—featuring a Creekstone Farms flat iron with three onion butter—is a satisfying version of the bistro classic. While my steak was cooked a bit more medium than the medium rare I requested, it was nonetheless a fine, well-salted, crusty-on-the-outside, tenderon-the-inside piece of meat, and the truffle Parmesan fries were every bit as crispy and addictive as they should be in this dish. Unfortunately, the accompanying asparagus spears suffered the same fate as the haricots verts: While undeniably fresh, they were utterly bland. Appetizers were big on flavor, albeit with a few missteps. The shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage were cheesy and creamy and smoky with vibrant seafood notes; however, the grits-

City on high: City Cafe stays dependable despite changes in the kitchen.

to-sauce ratio was off, as the grits were literally swimming in it. Meanwhile, some of the fried local oysters (with bleu cheese and hot sauce) were crispy, while other were a bit soggy. The fried green tomatoes topped with crab, however, struck a successful balance of flavor and texture: crunchy crust, soft and tart tomato, sweet and tender crab. And for those with a sweet tooth, the aptlynamed intense dark chocolate tart is a must: topped with black lava salt and pink peppercorns, each bite is a crunchy and balanced burst of sweet, salty, and subtly spicy. (Dinner daily, lunch Mon–Fri, brunch Sat–Sun. 1001 Cathedral St.; 410-539-4254; www.citycafebaltimore.com.

Zia’s By Martha Thomas


ther cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) have plenty of options when it comes to dietary trends—catering to raw, vegan and gluten-free eaters not just at juice bars and food trucks, but also at white Pick your poision: Most items on the menu at Zia’s are designated vegan, raw, or tablecloth restaurants gluten-free. with infused cocktails and three-figure guest checks. Baltimore may have trouble reconciling such currents with its passion for hard-shelled crabs and pulled pork. That may be why Zia’s owner, Daniela Troia (yes, of the family-owned Italian down the street), has a pulled pork sandwich on her nascent dinner menu. After all, there is a chance that the meateating partner of the yoga student who has 44   july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

long been juicing at the cafe will reluctantly tag along with the promise of pulled pork, only to be charmed by something raw, vegan, and glutenfree. Stuff like that happens. These days at Zia’s, it’s not unheard of for a carnivore to be wooed by beet ravioli, paperthin discs of raw beets layered over ground cashew “ricotta,” as pleasantly salty and creamy as cheese. Or green-hued raw “meatballs” made with spinach and nuts, served with curry sauce for dipping. This is raw food at its imitable best, fussy, labor-intensive presentations that mimic familiar foods, ensuring that nobody—neither converts nor tagalongs—feels too deprived. Troia opened Zia’s in 2005, with juices and healthy sandwiches, adding vegan, raw, and gluten-free items over the years, while keeping a handful of animal-derived choices. She introduced the dinner menu this spring, following a year or so of monthly raw dinners at the restaurant. The cafe’s decor hasn’t changed to embrace the evening crowd, retaining its Ikea sensibility without the Swedish meatballs: lime and lemon-colored walls, simple wooden tables, and molded plywood chairs. At dinner hour, walk-in customers wait for their carryout, even as dinner guests sip wine they’ve carried in, while nibbling on a selection of creative $3 happy hour plates—vegan coconut tempeh bites (soy protein coated in toasted coconut with a mango sauce), raw sushi (avocado and carrot wrapped in “riced” apples and nori, served with shoyu), gluten-free quinoa-spinach balls with feta and Romano cheeses. Most menu entries are accompanied by a V, R, or GF—designating vegan, raw, gluten-free, or any combination thereof. A handful of dishes— pulled pork (made with local meat), salmon burger, fish tacos (with queso fresco and avocado, on stiff sprouted corn tortillas)—flaunt no such codes (although the salmon burger is available GF—without the bun). (Breakfast and lunch Mon–Sat, dinner Wed–Sat. 13 Allegheny Ave., Towson; 410-296-0799; www.ziascafe.com.)

wine + spirits  food + Drink

Left Page top photo by j.m. Giordano, bottom photo by Leah Daniels; cocktail image by j.m. giordano

Tails of Summer, Part 2

Hurry up, slow down, sip a highball. By Clinton Macsherry


y first air conditioner was a sweaty, wheezing behemoth named Friedrich. The BTU abbreviation on Friedrich’s side panel, I decided, stood for “better turn up.” At the time I lived in a Mt. Vernon apartment whose bedroom window opened onto an alley behind a row of restaurants. The soupiness of a Baltimore summer posed a lesser threat to my sleep than the racket of dumpster trucks plying their trade throughout the wee hours. Friedrich, bless his compressor, droned on steadily, drowning out their din. Whatever gets you through the night. Life wasn’t always so clamorous. I grew up in leafy North Baltimore, surviving twenty-some summers without benefit of Freon. Kids in my neighborhood played outdoors ’til nightfall and fell asleep as attic fans exhaled the day’s heat and pulled cooler air inside. Grown-ups had a different coping mechanism that I came to appreciate: Slow down. Find a porch seat. Fix a highball. A highball has a cardinal virtue that makes it important to this formula. Not so much a class of drink as a cooling system, it swims against the tide of craft-tails elaborated by au courant mixologists. You’ll need your booze of choice, enough ice to fill a tall glass, a carbonated mixer, and maybe a lime wedge or some other simple garnish—that’s pretty much it. A highball recipe is built for speed, so its imbiber can get busy relaxing. Some cocktail historians believe the name “highball” pays tribute to the swiftness with which the drink can be made. In the days before automated lights and track-switching equipment, the explanation goes, railroads used balls on signal posts to alert train engineers to track conditions. A ball raised to the highest position indicated full speed ahead. Other etymologies suggest that the name derives from serving a “ball of malt”—Irish slang for a drink of whiskey—in a tall (or “high”) glass. Local cocktail maestro Josh Sullivan, founder of the website PostProhibition, notes that the highball “was

originally a scotch-and-soda-type drink,” perhaps lending the latter theory some credence. Highballs like a scotch and soda or a Seven and Seven declare their ingredients upfront. Others play it coy, with names like the Cuba Libre (rum and Coke) or the Moscow Mule (vodka and ginger beer). But most retain the highball’s essential simplicity, a trait you might think contemporary barkeeps—with their passion for house-made bitters, syrups, and juices, and their general disdain for pre-fab mixers—would find dilettantish. Not necessarily. “Simple highballs like the gin and tonic, done really well, can be wonderful,” says Sullivan. “I’d want to use topquality ingredients, like Magellan gin topped with Q Tonic, but a classic G&T is sleek and clean and beautiful.” Classics embody rules. Old-school cocktail writers sometimes insist that a highball contains one spirit, one mixer, and one garnish only. That partly distinguishes a highball from a Collins—another summertime cooler that combines liquor with superfine sugar (or simple syrup), lemon juice, and club soda, often garnished with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice. And a highball glass, shorter and slightly stouter than a cylindrical Collins glass, holds around 10 ounces to the Collins’ typical 12 or 14. Measurements make a difference. A proper highball wants no more than 3.5 ounces of liquor, Sullivan says, and for current mixologists “every quarter-ounce matters.” From there, however, “you can use some creativity in the way you stretch it out,” he continues. “Let’s say you add freshly juiced cucumber to a G&T. You’re still drinking the same amount in the same glass, but it really livens things up.” Juicing a cucumber would decelerate my highball-making, but the merits of cocktail creativity versus classicism might make for a nice evening porch conversation. At least until the mosquitoes chase us indoors, back into the air conditioning. Urbanite #97  july 2012  45


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feature  /  musi

A Woman’s Hair Is Like Her Helmet

Local entrepreneurs create a hub for the growing natural hair trend in Baltimore. By Krishana Davis

model: Krystal Mack

photography by Glenford Nunez/TYP Baltimore

“so what are you going to do to it?” asks my grandmother when I show her my short freshly cut, coily afro. “It is done,” I reply with a chuckle as I finger my highly textured hair. It has been eight years since I last touched my natural curl pattern— thick and soft like cotton, with tightly coiled kinks that add a little character. I spent seven months growing out my chemically relaxed, permanently straightened hair (which required bi-monthly visits to the salon) before this big chop. Now, I feel liberated—like a new woman who can see the world clearly for the first time. My grandmother, however, sees things differently. A product of the racist south, with lynching, overt racism, and segregation, she wonders how I will find a job as a recent college graduate without straightened hair. Is she right? Have we not outgrown our prejudiced past? I set out to see whether in Baltimore, our aesthetic—and our tolerance— has changed.

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Top model: Zaruta Reussite; bottom model: Yoko Henderson

Feature  arts + culture African American hair is considered natural when it is not processed or chemically treated. Kentucky-born inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan patented the chemical straightener in 1910 with his “hair refining cream,” created from a chemical used to repair sewing machines. The process of perming or relaxing black hair, which happens every six to eight weeks, is a ten- to thirty-minute process, depending on the coarseness of the hair. Sodium hydroxide, which permanently straightens the hair follicle, may sting when applied to the scalp—it can literally make you feel like your scalp is on fire. The longer the relaxer sits on the hair, the more it burns, and the straighter the hair becomes. It has been known to lead to chemical burns and alopecia: permanent hair loss. One hundred years after the permanent straighter, and almost four hundred years after the first slaves were brought to Jamestown and forced to disown their cultural identity, natural hair is slowly becoming more acceptable. Grassroots efforts in Baltimore are helping to push it into mainstream media and American culture. In an open studio in downtown Baltimore, Glenford Nunez, the 25-year-old founder of TYP Photography, is challenging the perception of natural hair with the Coiffure Project. Nunez often snaps candid photos of his assistant, Courtney Colley—he became captivated with Colley’s natural hair. Nunez, a self-taught photographer whose big break came at New York Fashion Week two years ago, has worked with models who

often complain of hair pains while working with stylists who are unfamiliar with textured hair. “I thought it would be cool for them to show their own hair, without somebody trying to take it and make it look like something else,” says Nunez. “Coiffure” derives from the Latin “cofea,” meaning “helmet.” “A woman’s hair is like her helmet, her protection,” explains Nunez. “If her hair is done, when anybody’s hair is done, it’s like they feel like they can take on the world.” Nunez hopes to turn the proj- Coiffed: Baltlimore-based photographer Glenford Nunez’s Coiffure Project ect, now a digital portfolio, celebrates natural hair. into a 250-page coffee table book. texture, which often consists of multiple types of The Coiffure Project has quickly picked up coils, takes time—but it’s ultimately rewarding. momentum in the natural hair community. SevOyin Handmade (see “The Goods,” Jan. ’12 Urbanite) is a Baltimore-based hair and body eral natural hair blogs like Urban Bush Babes, The Good Good Blog, and Natural Review have products line that has become a staple for black highlighted Nunez’s project, praising him for women in the natural hair community. “We feel the same way about hair products as we do his progressive attitude toward natural hair. But focusing solely on women or black hair was not about nutrition,” says owner and mixtress Jamyla Nunez’s sole intention. Bennu. “It should taste good but also help you be“It’s a portrait project first. And it’s a natural come healthy and strong.” hair project second,” says Nunez. “A lot of people As a way to maintain a strong connection with add their own meaning to it. It’s not just about customers, Oyin hosts bottling parties, where, in women—it’s about guys too. I just haven’t found exchange for some help with assembly, attendees any to shoot. I’m going to switch the game up receive a $25 in-store coupon and 25 percent diswhen I throw a Jewish girl in there with really count on products. The bottling party I attended curly hair.” in May also served as an outlet for us to discuss While Nunez’s project may not solely focus our personal natural hair journeys, as well as on women or black, natural hair, Dr. Glenn O. share styling tips and compare products. Phillips, a professor of history at Morgan State The naturals in attendance wore dreadlocs, University and author of The African Diaspora afros, and two-strand twist outs—and some Experience, explains that there has been a shift were still transitioning from relaxed to natural. toward empowerment of black women in the last As we began to discuss our favorite products and twenty-five years. vlogging personalities on YouTube, I questioned “Black women are really coming into their the women about natural hair in the workplace. own,” says Phillips. “More are going to school Just forty years ago, correspondent Melba Tolliver than black men, and they are rejecting the white risked being fired from New York’s WABC-TV for American’s idea of beauty—white, blue eyes, and wearing an afro to cover the wedding of former blond, straight hair.” president Richard Nixon’s daughter. The negative perception of natural hair dates Semebene McFarland, a 35-year-old natural back to slavery, Phillips says. “Blacks were enwho modeled for the Coiffure Project, explained slaved because they were thought to be inferior. she had an experience similar to mine with her It was the belief that all things black were not southern family when she went natural fourgood.” If you had an African-sounding name or teen years ago. Today, working as a nurse in an natural hair that was not straight and tidy, he emergency room in New Jersey, McFarland says, says, it would be hard for you to get a job. “When people come in they just want you to have Phillips admits that times have changed. “We a pulse. They don’t care what your hair looks like.” live in a changing world,” he says. “The negative McFarland says she does not think the corporate attitude or idea toward black, natural hair is beworld feels much different about natural hair, coming less and less.” having worked for the government previously. Despite my grandmother’s concerns, I cannot For my new natural hair-care regimen, I use low or sulfate-free shampoo and seal in moisture and will not let anyone else’s prejudices deter me with a plethora of kitchen-cabinet oils like extrafrom being the natural me. Coily, kinky textured virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and hair with tons of character is what I was blessed sweet almond oil. It’s a painstaking process— with, and it is here to stay. finding the perfect product for your unique hair Urbanite #97  july 2012  49

arts + culture  Music

Old Dog, New Tricks

Cris Jacobs Band, Songs For Cats and Dogs By Andrew Zaleski


hat Cris Jacobs is starting over is rather misleading. Jacobs, known in these parts for fronting the alternative rock band The Bridge for nearly a decade, has been heading up an eponymous five-piece band since the fall. The result? A self-funded, self-produced, self-promoted new album, Songs For Cats and Dogs. There, however, is where the bootstrapping ends, because this is no garage band. Nor would anyone familiar with Jacobs’ talent as a musician expect it to be. But the sound the Cris Jacobs Band produces is decidedly different from what Jacobs has played in the past. “People might be expecting The Bridge, round two, and that’s not what they’re going to get,” he says. What they will get is a blend of Jacobs’ broad musical influences crammed into each of the album’s nine songs. It’s blues in the vein of guys like Doc Watson and Muddy Waters; country, but more akin to the sounds of Zac Brown; jazz in the sense that the songs are inventive and purposely loose, as if they could derail themselves at every crescendo. 50   july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Jacobs, who doesn’t read music, says that when he writes he focuses on “rhythm and melody and sound and feel.” This makes for tunes that are less cumbersome and more emotive. In the lead track, “Dragonfly,” bluesy guitar work propels the song until the band drops into half-time and Jacobs rips into a moaning, wailing, string-bending guitar solo like Jimi used to cook up. He reprises the same six-string work in “Stoned On You,” where the song’s verses wend their way to a hook highlighted with the whammy of a meaty guitar solo but held in place with something lost in much of today’s radio-overplayed aural fare: the simplicity of a damn good melody. The album’s more composed tracks, like “Let Me Lift Up Your Burden” and “Be My Stars,” aren’t rigid or restrained for the sake of organizing an underlying rhythm. These are good musicians: Ed Hough on percussion, Jake Leckie on bass, Dave Hadley plays pedal steel guitar, and Mike Gambone, also from The Bridge, on drums. The songs sound as good as they do

because the guys playing them know how to listen to the other instruments and converse accordingly, not because they’ve practiced the same solos multiple times. “Most of the time, I like to leave it plenty loose so it can be felt out every night,” says Jacobs. “Luckily I found a group of musicians that could follow me down whatever path I wanted to go and do it perfectly.” To that effect, Songs For Cats and Dogs is more organic and improvised than restlessly crafted. Even the album’s title—a riff on Jacobs’ fiancée’s name, Kat, and his love for his dog— was something said in the moment by co-producer Chris Bentley that just felt right. “If you hear it and it’s coming from your soul—it’s part of the excitement of music for me,” Jacobs says. “The guys in the band are the same way. When you can get together and do that, it’s a pretty special thing.”   To listen to tracks from Cris Jacobs’ new album, go to http://bit.ly/crisjacobs..

the scene

this month’s happenings Compiled by Anissa Elmerraji


Left photo by Stevie T Photography; Right photo by C. Stanley, Courtesy of Theater J


South African comedian Trevor Noah comes to the Baltimore Comedy Factory on July 5–7. Since breaking into the comedy world a few years ago, Noah’s wit has won him an appearance on The Tonight Show and a gig opening for award-winning funny-man Gabriel Iglesias. (6 Market Pl.; 410-547-7798; www. baltimorecomedy.com)

fi l m

Stop by Little Italy’s annual Open Air Film Fest starting July 6 for pre-movie music and dancing followed by an Italianinspired flick. Moonstruck, a romanticcomedy starring Cher and Nicholas Cage, opens the series, followed by screenings of The Godfather, From Here to Eternity, and Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell the following Fridays in July. (High and Stiles sts.; www.littleitalymd.com)

Urbanite’s Healthy Food Film Series continues with Weight of the Nation on July 11. Take a seat at the Creative Alliance for this brand-new HBO documentary that looks at the obesity epidemic in the United States. Share your thoughts at a post-screening discussion. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-243-2050; www. urbaniteproject.com) The American Visionary Art Museum’s Flicks From the Hill outdoor movie series kicks off on July 12 with a free screening of Mel Brooks’ out-of-thisworld Sci-fi parody Spaceballs. Catch Breaking Away and Vertigo the following weeks. All films were inspired by the

Dubbed “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet,” The Kinsey Sicks stop by the Creative Alliance for two performances of their latest show, Electile Dysfunction. On July 14, Trixie, Winnie, Rachel, and Trampolina make a musical bid for the next presidency and poke fun at the somber political scene. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www. creativealliance.org)

museum’s current exhibition: All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma, which you can also see for free on film nights (800 Key Hwy.; 410-244-1900; www. avam.org)

liter atur e

Baltimore-based literary magazine Artichoke Haircut hosts its monthly “You’re Allowed” reading series at Dionysus on July 7. Local literary talents Kate Wyer and poet Carrie Murphy (PRETTY TILT ) open the evening, followed by a firstcome-first-served open mic for aspiring writers. (8 E. Preston St.; 410-244-1020; www.artichokehaircut.com)

m usic

On July 1, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy reunite for Jacksons: The Unity Tour 2012 at the Lyric. The brothers play from a catalogue of celebrated hits like “Blame it on the Boogie” and “Enjoy Yourself.” (140 W Mt. Royal Ave.; 410-900-1150; www.lyricoperahouse. com) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Crosby, Stills & Nash play Pier Six Pavilion on July 2. Now folk-rock legends, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash play the songs—remember “Helplessly Hoping” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”?—that fostered their stardom in the ’60s and ’70s. (731 Eastern Ave.; 410783-4189; www.piersixpavillion.com)

Pioneers of the Baltimore indie-rock scene, The Dialogue plays from their latest album, Wet Dreams at the Golden West on July 6. They’re joined by local indie-pop foursome The Jennifers and Delaware band The Sky Drops. (1105 W. 36 St.; 410-889-8891; www.goldenwest cafe.com) New-York based Jazz flautist Mayu Saeki plays alongside a guitar, drum, and bass trio at An Die Musik Live on July 8. Classically trained at Japan’s Elizabeth University of Music, Saeki is a member of NEA Jazz Master Chico Hamilton’s group Euphoria. (409 N. Charles St.; 410-3852638; www.andiemusiklive.com) John Williams’ epic film score is celebrated during Star Wars and Beyond on July 14. Set beneath the stars at Oregon Ridge Park, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra opens the night with recognizable selections from Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean. Then, a laser light show and fireworks accompanies the beloved Star Wars soundtrack. (13555 Beaver Dam Rd., Cockeysville; 410-7838000; www.bsomusic.org) Germano’s Trattoria hosts the first Baltimore show of the newly formed Maryland-based Jazz quartet MARS 4-tet on July 20. Made up of bassist Max Murray, saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk, percussionist Frank Russo, and guitarist

Donato Soviero, the group’s repertoire ranges from classic jazz to hits from The Beatles. (300 S. High St.; 410-752-4515; www.germanostrattoria.com) Poised with their new single, “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” Bombay Bicycle Club makes their way across the pond for a show at Rams Head Live on July 31. The British foursome tours with Canadian indie-rockers Plants and Animals. (20 Market Pl.; 410-244-1131; wwww.ramsheadlive.com)

v i sua l a r t

On July 12 we’re hosting a reception for Another Roadside Attraction at Urbanite @ Case[werks] gallery. Curated by Urbanite’s own Arts and Culture E-Zine editor Cara Ober, the exhibition features pieces that mix fantasy with the everyday. Running until August 30, the exhibit displays the work of a dozen local artists including Tim Tate, Travis Childers, and Adam Rush. (1508 Saint Paul St.; 410-332-4160; www.casewerks.com) Scott Burkholder, executive director of guerilla mural movement the Baltimore Love Project, draws comparisons between the wine and food industry of the past thirty years and the art market today. On July 28 at the Maryland Art Place, Burkholder explores whether art has the potential to see the same explosive shift in consumption. (8 Market Pl.; 410-9628565; www.mdartplace.org)

COMMUNITY Bring your dog or cat (or parrot or lizard or pet monkey) to the American Visionary Art Museum’s Visionary Pets on Parade on July 4. Prizes are awarded in categories like “best costume,” “most patriotic,” and “least likely to succeed as a pet.” A Pet Talent (Or Not) Show and a game of pet musical chairs are sure to entertain your furry (or feathered, or scaly) friends. (800 Key Hwy.; 410-2441900; www.avam.org) Celebrate your red, white, and blue spirit at Baltimore’s Ports America Chesapeake Fourth of July Celebration on July 4. The night kicks off with the United States Naval Academy Band Electric Brigade at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater, followed by fireworks over

Urbanite #97  july 2012  5 1

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the harbor. (Inner Harbor; 410-752-8632; www.promotionandarts.com) Check out this year’s Caribbean Carnival Festival, a celebration of all facets of Caribbean culture. July 13–15, grab some jerk chicken and enjoy the carnival parade, live reggae and soca music, and performances by authentic dancers. (Harford Rd. and St. Lo Dr.; www.promotion andarts.com) July 28–29, Maryland’s annual German Festival celebrates its 112th year. Sip a frothy brew alongside a bratwurst or some other savory staple of German cuisine, and check out crafts and collectibles from Bavaria and beyond. Kids can keep busy with wall climbing, face painting, puppet shows, and arts and crafts. (2200 York Rd., Timonium; 410-252-0200; www. marylandstatefair.com)

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From Ponyo to Pokemon, all aspects of Asian art and pop-culture are celebrated during Otakon. July 27–29, anime admirers flock to the Baltimore Convention Center to see art on display, compete for best costume, and meet special guests. This year, actor Jason David Frank (he played Tommy in Power Rangers) and illustrator Hidetaka Tenjin make an appearance. (1 W. Pratt St.; 410-649-7000; www.otakon.com)

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eye to eye

what exactly is a memory? And what does a memory look like? Is it possible to have a memory of a memory? Would you recognize a memory if it belonged to someone else? Isabel Manalo, a D.C.-based visual artist, has been exploring these ideas for a number of years, but her most recent series, Bits of Elsewhere, has literally reduced a visual memory down to a few essential components. Manalo, a painter and mixed-media artist, has always courted a flagrant relationship with the negative space in her pictures, often leaving wide swaths of white in her compositions, as well as incompletelooking images that appear to melt into the white space. In Fall Apart, Manalo takes it a step further. The artist took glossy, color photographs, the very cara ober items designed to preserve memory, and cut them apart, only to reassemble them into painted, abstract compositions. The photos cara ober is urbanite’s online arts/culture editor. to receive were all shot near Manalo’s residence near Rock Creek Park and her weekly e-zine, go to bit.ly/ depict all manner of trees and greenery. “I’ve taken thousands of ezinesignup. photos there, to the point where I feel I’ve gotten to know trees and paths as I have gotten to know people,” the artist explains. “I began to see them both as having personalities and also collectively, as pattern.” Although an inherent disjuncture occurs whenever glossy photos and paint are combined, a contrast which may be considered unattractive by some, the presence of the photo is necessary for Manalo’s work to get to the core of her subject. While most memories are preserved in photos for nostalgic purposes, Manalo has managed to fragment her images into arresting color and mysterious texture that, combined with paint in a new composition, literally rebuild the memory using visual cues, rather than sentiment, as the blueprint. “Philosophically, I am drawn to the sensations of waking, dreaming, and drifting towards images and scenes that are uncertain—the visceral feeling of crossing liminal barriers between two realms,” says Manalo. The artist knows she has reached her goal when the white space in her pieces takes on an atmospheric, palpable force and the collaged photos meld into an allover abstract composition. 5 4   july 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

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