Sep 122013

Public reveal of “MLKV” plans  set for Tuesday, September 17

NoC News

Mayer's Town Branch Commons Design Challenge. Photo by Danny Mayer.

Mayer’s Town Branch Commons Design Challenge. Photo by Danny Mayer.

This past April, NoC editor Danny Mayer issued an urban design challenge for Fayette Urban Countiers. The Mayer’s Challenge sought ideas and plans for affordably redeveloping a small part of city-owned urban space across Vine Street from the LexTran station. The design challenge was inspired by the city’s recent interest in redeveloping under-used parts of the urban fabric–particularly those urban surface parking lots that Rupp Opportunity Zone Master Planner Gary Bates once described as unsightly and unnecessary.

After months of collating ideas, on Tuesday, September 17, Mayer will present at two different public gatherings his findings for “MLKV”–his name for  the area under the MLK Viaduct. The first will be a brief presentation to City Council at their weekly 3:00 Tuesday Work Session. After that, a second public unveiling and presentation (you are all invited) will take place beginning at 7:00 pm at Al’s Bar.

“This is important,” Mayer said at a Sunday morning press conference. “The Scape design for the area calls for removal of the MLK viaduct. Our plans, meanwhile, attempt to work with it rather than remove it. It’s a difference worth considering. And 2-for-1 at Al’s.”

And don’t worry, Mayer says. There were plenty of great ideas.

“I was skeptical at first, but color me impressed. There’s just a lot of bright FUCers out there.”

May 022012

By Joseph Anthony

Al’s Bar has gentrified Limestone.

For years I’d drive up Limestone on my way home, turning left on Sixth. But it got too depressing, and the ladies of the night (and day), loitering in front of the bar on the corner, trying to catch the eye of passing motorists, too sad looking. The city’s annual sting operation, where it would replace the regulars with fairly attractive police women, would boost the scenery for a few days. But when the police had finished gleaning the low end of the John-gene-pool, it was back to the regular routine.

The transformed Al’s Bar has changed all that. And now that the liquor store across the street from Al’s, (another fountain of drugs and prostitution) has been replaced by the Home-Grown Press, good old fashioned vice has had to go looking for greener (browner?) fields.  I know Studs Terkel, a writer who celebrated the vitality of urban grit, wouldn’t like it. But I’m a bit more ambiguous.

It’s very hard to think intelligently and objectively about gentrification. Continue reading »

Dec 072011

Twelve O’Clock High Screening at the Kentucky Theatre

The Kentucky Theatre, in partnership with WWII veteran Frank Cassidy, will host a special Pearl Harbor Day screening of Twelve O’Clock High. This 1949 Academy Award-winning classic, starring Gregory Peck, tells the story of U.S. aircrews who conducted daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and Occupied France. The event will begin at 11:30 A.M. with an introduction to the World War II veterans in attendance. The screening will begin at noon, and will be followed by an opportunity to meet the veterans and discuss their experiences. This event is free and open to the public. For those who need a reminder, Pearl Harbor Day is December 7. Continue reading »

Oct 262011

We need your do re mi

NoC Staff Report

On Tuesday, November 1, North of Center is hosting several parties in hopes of raising funds to continue operations into the next year. Yeah, we’re asking for your hard-earned do re mi. In NoC fashion, some of these fundraisers are FREE to attend, while others aren’t even fundraisers at all so much as they are communal sing-alongs sent out over the public wire.

Without further ado, the three-pronged NoC winter fundraiser, a celebration of public transmissions.  Please join us at some or all of these events. Things are so much more fun with crowds. Continue reading »

Oct 262011

By Danny Mayer

Album cover.

John Hartford AereoPlain.

John Hartford is one among a generation of artists—Kentuckians Hunter S. Thompson, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman among them—who came of age during the 1950s, soaked in the cultural and social upheavals of the 1960s in hippy-dippy California as relative (and relatively old) unknowns, and then proceeded, in the early Seventies, to produce some of the most thoroughly saturated “Sixties” works one could ever hope to encounter.

It wasn’t until 1971 that Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas appeared in the iconic ’60s startup Rolling Stone magazine. That same year McClanahan’s “Greatful Dead I Have Known” hit the Playboy stands. Ditto for Norman’s Divine Right’s Trip, subtitled A novel of the counterculture, which began to run serially in the back-to-the-earth publication The Whole Earth Catalog.

For the song and dance man John Hartford, 1971 brought the release of Aereo-Plain, an album best described as a perfect expression of counter-cultural bluegrass music. The sound was a distillation of Hartford’s two different decades as a musician. There was the 1950s teen years spent listening to late night country radio, playing old time fiddle and banjo music, and dreaming about the Mississippi River. And then there was the Sixties, spent as a radio DJ in Nashville, later as a witty but otherwise undistinguished California-type folkie with a banjo, and later still as an accomplished session player for albums like the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

In Aereo-Plain in 1971, Hartford synthesized those two decade pulls. The new and the old matched. Critics cite the record as ground zero for the newgrasss movement with good reason. It fused the more conservative old school bluegrass traditions of Hartford’s youth to the feel-hippy adventure-seeking wit and punch he encountered as a studio musician playing at the height of the 1960s acid rock craze. Even his Aereo-Plain band, new-school long-hairs Norman Blake and Randy Scruggs and old-school short-hairs Vassar Clements and  Tut Taylor, split generationally down the middle. Jim Morrison talked about doors; and here was Hartford, the old hippie with the old-timey goggles, a veritable time and sound portal. Continue reading »

Mar 142011

By Danny Mayer

Before the advent of the radio and the mass production of the phonograph, live music was an intricate—central—component of most American lives. Wealthy families with music parlors learned music from sheet; other folk fashioned all kinds of stringed, wind and drum instruments. Music was an immediate, live, presence. Celebrating important community and family dates? Communicating stories or passing along coded secrets? Wanting to while away the summer, dance the jig, get drunk as a beaver, scrump? Before the invention of an “on” button allowed us to pipe in music from some outside world, communities required plenty of somebodies to pick up an instrument and set to playing. Continue reading »

Aug 252010

Brown Sugar: A Devine Intervention and Disco Damie Production, much like Lexington’s hip hop scene, has kept its wings tucked neatly beneath the radar for most of its existence.

The event is hosted by Cass Dwyer and Devine Carama at Al’s Bar every month.  It serves as both a venue for bringing local hip hop artists above ground and a way to draw outsiders into the circle.

“There wasn’t really a monthly event for all of us to get together and celebrate hip hop as well as let new artists introduce themselves to the Kentucky audience,” said Dwyer.

The latest installment of Brown Sugar took place last Saturday, August 21, and featured the local-based lineup of Devine Carama, Kae State, Scoupe and Kuntry Noiz, plus guest DJ WarrenPeace.  The next is only a month away, so be on the lookout.

For more information about the show and other Disco Damie and Devine Carama events, go to to

Jun 092010

By Sunny Montgomery

Her husband won’t let her have a blowtorch.  Her anxiety can be crème-filled and self-indulgent and if she were a superhero she might be called Cheesecake Chippy.  These are the kinds of things one might learn of local poetess Renee Rigdon during one of her lively readings.  Rigdon, like many other local writers, has found her voice through the Holler Poet Series’ open-mike.

Certainly by now most Lexingtonians are familiar with the series, founded by Eric Sutherland and hosted by Al’s Bar.  Each month features a different Kentucky writer, from the nationally known Silas House to local celebrities like Donna Ison.  Since its beginning in 2008, Holler Poets Series has become a sort of haven for local poets, songsters and misfit writers alike to rally together, unstress with a few whiskey shots and then share their words during the no holds barred open-mic.  This is where I first met Rigdon last April when she “popped her Holler cherry,” as Sutherland so elegantly phrases it. Continue reading »

May 072010

People’s histories the focus of 2010 SNOC series

By Danny Mayer

The Slightly North of Center Community Talks (SNOC) will begin their third sun-season run at Al’s Bar with four talks held on concurrent Thursdays in May and June. The free talks are open to the public and traditionally focus on topics that might be of interest to residents living in the immediate North Limestone vicinity. In remembrance of historian, rabble-rouser and consummate educator Howard Zinn, this year’s speakers will focus on telling People’s Histories of Kentucky.

Though the titles and main proprietor (me) are nearly identical, the Slightly North of Center speaker series pre-dates this paper by a full year. I teach an 8-week first-year writing class at Bluegrass Community and Technical College during the summer term. The more laid back summer format allows me to move my students—and their writing—away from the classroom, off of the campus and into communities whose voices are not well represented. It is an effort on my part to impress upon my students how the writing skills they learn in “class” can be used to engage in community conversations.

As an avid patron of Al’s and a recent newcomer to the northside, I have seen up-close the success of free public gatherings there in the form of Eric Sutherland’s Holler Poets series and Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova’s Arts in the Community meetings, both of which utilized Al’s Bar for mobilizing communities. The enthusiasm of Holler in particular has reminded me how vital bars and pubs have been, historically, as open gathering spaces for radical cultural and intellectual conversation. The American Revolution, for chrissake, was plotted in bars and pubs. Continue reading »

Mar 152010

Rock N’ Romp provides musical congregation and creativity

By Captain Commanokers

I spent a lot of hours playing the tennis racquet when I was a kid – not a lot of tennis though. The racquet was my weapon of choice in trying to replicate numerous Angus Young riffs as I stomped about the garage in a mad fury of exuberance that rock ‘n’ roll can provide a young set of ears.

Snow Monster rocks FreeKY Fest, 2008. Photo by Matt Jordan /

A group of people in Lexington is trying to take that racquet and replace it with some full-fledged, joyous racket. Continue reading »