Best of 2012: Beer


By: Cal Meacham

By all accounts 2012 was the year of craft beer as it exploded into the limelight.  Mostly considered a beer snob or specialized industry reserved for elitists who talk about beer like it is the holy nectar of the gods (trust me it is!), craft beer started to gain some major respect from casual drinkers.  People willing to put down their preconceived notions of the beverage and branch out from their standard Miller products.

Here in Orlando, we saw the opening of the incredible new Red Light Red Light which pulled in new customers and dropped some of the major deterrents of the old location (bad vibe for non beer heads, bad location, etc.).  We also saw Cigar City (out of Tampa) move their staple brands on to a brand new canning line which allows us  beer lovers to take CCB to the beach!

Elsewhere, Michigan continued its foothold in the beer community with the crowning of Grand Rapids as co-beer city U.S.A.  Their beer bar Hopcat was named the #3 Best Beer Bar on The Planet by Beer Advocate and growth continues around the state.  It furthers the idea that people are ready to set down the swill and drank with joy.

So here I am to do my part and submit to you my favorite Beers of the year!  Cheers!

Continue reading


Get The Gringo (2012) – Review

Last Tuesday Ain’t It Cool News held an advance screener of Get the Gringo, Mel Gibson’s latest movie (sic) in 10 cities across the United States. Self-financed and released by Mel’s Icon Productions, Gringo is bucking all traditional routes of launch and will be released on Direct TV Video On Demand on May 1st.  My colleague Thoughtblocking and I had the privilege (sic) of attending the screener for FOH and bring to you this report.
Continue reading

Cal and Coach Ryan’s All Star Fantasy, Fantasy Draft

The NHL All-Star break is upon us and the Fantasy Draft commences this evening.  Cal and Coach Ryan have decided to put their hockey knowledge to the test and have their own Fantasy, Fantasy draft.  Following the same two team format and rules, drafting all your goalies by the 10th round and your defenders by the 15th, Cal and Coach Ryan are going to be putting their hockey pride on the line.  What is at stake?  The winner gets a 12pk of Labatt Blue (our favorite hockey beer) and the loser has to wear a piece of clothing supporting the favorite hockey team of the winner (Coach Ryan – Columbus, Cal – Detroit).

I as Coach Ryan sometimes find it difficult to admit that the two teams I root for are the Blue Jackets and the Lightning although being from Cleveland it is fitting. That being said sometimes I am embarrassed to sport Columbus gear so the thought of seeing Cal wearing it is quite intriguing. The rules are simple we are going to flip a coin to determine if you want to draft first or pick the captain. After the All Star Game on Sunday Cal and I will add up the points and make the other one pose in the other person’s apparel. Here is how the scoring works: Continue reading

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 (& More) | Sunday

SUNDAY | July 19 | DAY 3 | You Can Go Back Home (But Then You Have To Leave)

So for our last day, my girlfriend had one request: falafel.  I was happy to accommodate, so we took the blue line down to Sultan’s Market (a couple blocks off the Damen stop).  If you like Middle Eastern food, this is the spot for you.  She had her falafel sandwich, and I had a tilapia dinner, complete w/ basmati rice and hummus for $7.

street art just off the Damen Blue Line, near Sultan's Market

After that, we walked a couple blocks down to a spot very close to our hearts: Quimby’s Bookstore.  Quimby’s is a sure-fire gem; terrific selection of magazines (music, lit, art, culture, etc.), lots of transgressive and local titles.  And poetry.  Sweet, sweet poetry (it’s sort of my thing).  If you haven’t done much reading lately and want to know what you should be reading, Quimby’s will have a variety of things that fit the bill.  If you’re not much of a reader, Quimby’s is the place to find what you like and become one.

close-up of street art near the Damen Blue Line

Then it was time to face the heat and get to Pitchfork.  We parked in the warehouse district, and laughed discussing the potential irony of Pavement playing “Range Life” in “nature kid” Billy Corgan’s backyard (note: said potential irony was realized hours after our conversation).  Before heading through the gates (no re-admittance!), we dipped into the Cobra Lounge for a cool drink to brace ourselves for the swelter.  This place is so dark, the glasses don’t sweat—it’s like anti-light, with red velvet undertones.  Nice ambiance, but a stark contrast upon exiting.

We made it just as Lightning Bolt was starting on the Aluminum Stage, and they delivered the savage two-piece sonic destruction I was desperate to hear from them.  It was great to finally see the tower of speakers and the masked man screaming over the most ridiculous “beats” played by man or beast.  For the most part, I just laughed; I don’t think I was able to process what I was seeing in any other physical way.  I say this not out of disrespect; I say this out of awe.  They were fucking incredible.  It was the kind of performance that, even if you don’t dig the music, it is something you tell people that you saw, and some of those people will not believe what you say.

Holy fucking Lightning Bolt, on the Aluminum Stage, Pitchfork Day 3

After such an intense display, we needed refreshment, and stumbled upon the best damn orange drink ever poured over ice (more specifically, the blood orange cooler from Big Bite Catering).  We hydrated, walked around, checked out the vendors and poster artists, acquired paper hats to try to keep our brains from boiling in our skulls and were successful in that end.  Then we made our way to the Balance Stage for the first time since Friday to check out a friend’s recommendation: Here We Go Magic.  Honestly, they had a nice full, pulsing sound, and they are from New York, I believe.  That’s mostly what I took away from what we caught of their set, and I’m not sure who’s to blame for that.

Around that time I became hyper-aware of hipster trends I hadn’t really thought or seen much of, being away from the city for awhile.  So, here are the top 4 hipster “trends” I noticed walking around Pitchfork 2010, in no particular order:

  1. handlebar moustaches (and other old-timey facial hair)
  2. boat shoes (or top sides)
  3. old NBA jerseys, predominantly from the 1990’s (not vintage or throw-back jerseys; used Goodwill-bought, often child-size jerseys)
  4. short-shorts (which I thought was a nice fit with the old NBA jerseys)

We were then abruptly shocked back to life by Major Lazer on the Aluminum Stage.  This shit was out of control: Chinese dragon dancers, ballerinas, champagne, ladders, bleach blonde mohawks, dancehall beats, shout-outs like “Somebody’s ganna get pregnant!” and sport fucking (well, simulated sport fucking, at times involving a ladder).

Major Lazer bringing the party with Chinese dragon dancers, Pitchfork 2010, Aluminum Stage, Day 3

They threw down high-energy party music, with a great variety of styles and a theatrical dimension that I found to be truly unique, and behavior verging on “lewd and lascivious” that usually doesn’t get much play in the sunlight outside the clubs; or maybe there aren’t as many acts that have the balls and the skills to pull it off.  Another band worth seeing at your earliest opportunity.

It was about the end of Major Lazer’s set that we decided to set up camp, being in front of the main stage, and wait where we were for Pavement.  The bad news about that was missing a band that came highly recommended.  The good news about that (and really, this says something about the layout of the festival) was we had a good spot for Big Boi, just by turning 90° to our left.  I was surprised he broke out a few OutKast classics (“So Fresh, So Clean“, “Ms. Jackson”, and “Bombs Over Baghdad” to name a few), though it’s strange to hear him perform them with some guy who is not Andre 3000.  A cool moment later in his set came when he brought out ChiTown’s Finest Breakers (all 11 years old and younger), who served up some serious moves for the crowd during “The Way You Move”, who they then pimped to perfection with their skills and youthful game.  A feel-good and quality walk-off moment.

Once Big Boi was done, it was all waiting.  I’m not going to be shy about my adoration for Pavement.  This being the first time I had ever seen them, I was interested in what the reunion vibe would be like, and wondered about the massive strings of giant bare bulbs hung loosely over the stage.  Before anyone found out, the crowd was addressed, scolded, hoodwinked, etc. by Drag City founder “Rockin'” Rian Murphy, doing his best drunken Andy Kaufman-playing-an-ex-Q101-DJ impression, for what was a palpable crescendo of rage from the crowd (which would have fine, except he went about five minutes deep into Pavement’s time, and they didn’t do an encore, so yeah).

Eventually, the band emerged, hugging Murphy, which combined seemed to quell the anger in the crowd, and they launched into a jangly rendition of “Cut You Hair”, followed by “In The Mouth A Desert”, and they were off.

Steven Malkmus, Steve West and Bob Nostanovich of Pavement under lights, closing down Pitchfork 2010

The lights above dimmed and brightened softly throughout the set, accenting loud peaks and backlighting quieter valleys, used to the greatest effect during a gorgeous version of “Stop Breathin’”.  Their set was rife with fan-friendly tracks (“Silence Kit”, “Frontwards”, “Range Life”, “Stereo” and “Gold Soundz” to name a handful).  One surprise was “Fin” off 1997’s Brighten the Corners, the first album this reviewer really dived into way back when; another was Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew coming out for a bitching sing-a-long on “Two States”.

Once they started playing “Here”, everyone knew the night was near ending, but they closed strong with “The Hexx”, and after, they walked off not to return.  While they had problems with the sound throughout, and while I am sure some people were put off by the loose, overly-casual nature of their performance, they played some of their best cuts and for the most part translated a good time on stage to a good time for the crowd, thanks in no small part to Bob Nostanovich banging away in his little corner of the stage, waxing nostalgic for the recently-ended World Cup and playing his mini-vuvuzela between songs.  It may not have been the high-energy dance rock of LCD Soundsystem, but it seemed like a fitting end to an outstanding weekend of music.

After the show, I was fortunate to run into an old band-mate of mine (who is now doing some important reporting for the Chicago Reader), who is soon leaving Chicago for Boston.  Thanks to his pending relocation, and thanks to having my car, I inherited my band’s old PA system (but not before I made my girlfriend join me for a sit-down taco session at my favorite Mexican joint in the city: Arturo’s).  More importantly, we got to catch up with an old friend, which for me and my girlfriend, was just as much our reason for going to Chicago as the festival.


You don’t have to have old friends in Chicago to have an excellent time there.  I would recommend avoiding most of the obvious recommendations people give you when you go to Chicago.  Check out the Chicago Reader online; pick up a copy of the Not For Tourists Guide to Chicago.  Get lost on the trains and find you way back.  These are all good way of finding spots that will have the personality it seems like most people are looking for when they visit the city.

This review is in no way intended to be a how-to for getting around the city, nor is it anywhere near comprehensive, even for the areas we frequented most.  I would never be so foolish to think I could offer such a piece in such a space.  These are our spots, places we love, and I share them with you in hopes you will go and give them your patronage, and have a good time doing it.

We missed too many good bands at Pitchfork to even consider this a complete review (here goes: El-PLiars, Delorean, Raekwon, Beach House, Sleigh Bells and many others I’m sure), but I wouldn’t want to go to Chicago and do nothing besides go to a music festival, any festival.  If you do that, you are, in my opinion, cheating yourself.  We did see most of the bands we were excited about, and I definitely feel like I saw a year’s worth of good music in three days.  But we had other agendas, people to visit, things to do, food to eat, and we kept our schedule free to accomodate for whatever came to mind next, and never worried about what we might be missing.  In fact, looking back, it feels like we really didn’t miss anything at all…

A post by – rccola3