2009 Best of Cleveland: Entertainment & Activities

'70s Cover Band
Skinny Moo


The band’s setlist may span three decades, but Skinny Moo’s funkified heart beats loudest when it’s channeling the days of doobies and discos. (And if you’ve ever seen the band roll along to the fat bass line of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” you know what we mean.) The quintet, which has been together since 1999, is known for its punchy, crowd-pleasing performances that can jump from the Time’s “Jungle Love” to the Counting Crows’ “Rain King.” Still, for your recommended daily allowance of grooviness, we suggest digging your dancing shoes into the band’s renditions of the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’ ” and the Commodores’ “Brick House."

'80s Cover Band


Don’t be fooled by the rimmed glasses, suspenders and plaid shorts up to here, because the Spazmatics can rock ’80s music like no other band in Cleveland. Band members Davey, Neil, Myron and Winston revive classic hits such as “What I Like About You,” “Our House” and “Take on Me,” appealing to crowds with their quirky sound and humor. The band also throws in random tidbits during its sets including “The Dreidel Song” and changes the lyrics to whatever strikes its nerdy fancy. The band, which has franchises throughout the U.S., has attracted so much attention locally and nationally with its unique sound and Steve Urkel-inspired style that the Cleveland group has been called on to entertain celebrities such as tennis player Andy Roddick and former president George W. Bush.

'90s Cover Band
Hollywood Shuffle


Hollywood Shuffle is a mix of frat-house swagger, spilled beer and that stack of CDs you’ve long since sold back to The Exchange. In short, the band is fun, it rocks and offers a shot of nostalgia for those of us who wistfully recall the often-overlooked rock of the mid-to-late 1990s. Of course, there are plenty of selections from the 2000s in Hollywood Shuffle’s repertoire: Incubus, Velvet Revolver and Jimmy Eat World. But, when this five-piece band pulls out songs from Eve 6, Lit and Spacehog, it’ll make you want to ask where the keg is.

Breakout Musician
Jessica Lea Mayfield


Jessica Lea Mayfield’s music is sad and simple, sweet and haunting. Its power resides in her doleful acoustic guitar and beautifully weary voice. The Kent native just marked her 20th birthday, and the past year has been a big one for her. Though she’ll be the first to tell you she’s been working at this for years (she performed with her family’s musical group as a kid, and did a stint under the name Chittlin as a teenager), the release of her full-length debut, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, is as much a deeply personal reflection as it is a 12-song declaration that we’ve only begun to hear what she has to say. Mayfield is on tour throughout the United States this fall. Catch her opening for Dan Auerbach on Dec. 9 at the House of Blues.

Book Club
Art and Fiction Book Club

11150 East Blvd., Cleveland
(216) 421-7340

Tired of the stale discussions at your book club? Sign up for the Art and Fiction Book Club at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Every month, it takes on a new novel or narrative nonfiction book related to art in the museum’s collection. About 15 to 25 people meet three Wednesdays a month. The museum’s education staff explains the artist and the period of art the book covers in the first and third weeks. In between, the club meets for a traditional discussion in the museum’s Ingalls Library. “Some have gone to great lengths” to liven up the discussion, says Betsy Lantz, director of library and archives: One dressed a mannequin in a French costume and wig for a book about King Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. This month, the club is reading Noa Noa by Paul Gauguin (to go with the exhibit; see page 42). Next month, author Jonathan Lopez will lead a discussion of his book, The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren.

Heavy Metal Sculpture
Jerry Schmidt

16006 Waterloo Road, Cleveland
(239) 293-9548

He can turn a bunch of scrap metal into an intricately detailed, life-size giraffe. Using materials such as stainless steel, copper, aluminum, brass, old cymbals and whatever else he can find, artist Jerry Schmidt has an unusual outlet for communicating his point of view. “Back when I was 8, my father was a metal sculptor,” says Schmidt. “He gave me a helmet, and he told me to watch. I knew this is what I wanted to do, with all the fire and danger that goes into creating this type of art.” His works, on display at the Waterloo 7 Gallery, have fascinating connotations: Witness the 90-degree-angled steel pieces thrown together to make The Equation and the dark, twisting steel work he created after Michael Jackson’s death called Different in a Cruel World. And, like father like son, Schmidt is teaching his 15-year-old how to make metal sculptures, too.

Rock Climbing Wall
Kendall Cliffs Rock Gym

60 Kendall Park Road, Peninsula
(330) 655-5489

Cabin fever might make you feel like climbing the walls. But inside the 7,000-square-foot Kendall Cliffs Rock Gym, that’s the idea. With a 180-degree wall reaching 35 feet, it is Northeast Ohio’s only gym where you can climb up a wall, across the ceiling (if you dare) and down the other side. After you’ve wedged your feet into the climbing shoes that are two sizes too small (they’re supposed to fit that way), tied yourself into the safety rope and splashed a little chalk on your sweaty hands, you’ll be ready to ascend one of the dozens of routes. Assembled with the same care as a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, these routes can be just as hard to decipher as you attempt to go from ground level to the rafters without a discouraging, and sometimes painful, trip back to the start line. If you’ve never climbed any higher than your grandpa’s knee, no worries. The knowledgeable staff teaches lessons for all skill levels.

Wait-Loss Gym
Urban Active

25145 Cedar Road, Lyndhurst
(216) 291-8555
131 Market St., Westlake
(440) 892-4653

Is it a crime that we want Zumba for free, or that we’d like to jump right on a treadmill at the gym at 6 p.m. on a Monday? We don’t think so, and neither does Urban Active — a multilevel fitness center in Crocker Park and Legacy Village. Here there are TVs on every cardio machine (of which there are two floors, eliminating the gym rush hour), three of every weight machine, a lap pool and full schedule of fitness classes, all at no additional cost (including spinning, yoga and Pilates). A sleek, open floor plan also means gym-goers aren’t packed in like sweaty sardines — there’s plenty of space to sprawl out on a mat for crunches or to grab a few free weights for lunges.

Group Dog Walk
Walk a Hound Lose a Pound

(216) 664-7837

Dachshunds, Great Danes and everything in between walking side by side down the streets of Ohio City. Yes, it’s a pack, but a very friendly one. This gang of two dozen or so — and their owners — meet once a week in good weather to stroll and socialize. It’s called Walk a Hound Lose a Pound. The program was created by the Cleveland Health Department to get people moving. Though special walks are held on a one-time basis throughout the city, it’s the one- to two-mile Tuesday walk through Ohio City that has the most loyal following. Leader Timothy McCue, who brings his dogs Mercer and Oliver, says he has witnessed weight loss, but the camaraderie is what keeps people coming back. “It’s been wildly popular,” he says. Fortunately, it hasn’t been literally wild. In two years of strolling in the neighborhood, there hasn’t been a single fight or bite — of either the canine or human variety.

Bowling Alley
Freeway Lanes

28801 Euclid Ave., Wickliffe
(440) 585-5800

You will be overwhelmed. That will be your reaction when first experiencing the 96 lanes at Wickliffe’s Freeway Lanes. Originally known as Palisades Palace, the 92,000-square-foot bowling center is the largest in the United States. There is always a ball racing toward pins, every day, creating a rolling, constant thunder that reduces bowlers’ voices to background hum. Looking across the expanse of side-by-side lanes, you notice that, after the first 30 or so rows, they melt into an optical feast of seemingly endless parallel lines. In fact, the 96 side-by-side lanes makes this place the largest single-span bowling venue in the world. Because of its size, it’s also the only bowling center in Cleveland able to host large-scale competitions, including its own “Freeway Classic.” It can accommodate up to 700 participants during a tournament and still have room left for 300 spectators. Grab your ball, and prepare to be amazed.

Sled-Riding Hill
Hill on Powers Boulevard

7007 Powers Blvd., Parma

A few inches of perfectly white snow covers the ground. It taunts you as the weatherman utters those two little words you’ve been waiting all winter to hear: snow day. Woo hoo! Time to strap on your high-waisted snow pants and head for the hill on Powers Boulevard in Parma. It’s sledding time, and this is no bunny hill. The terrain is perfect for preteens seeking a chilly thrill. Come armed with your weapon of choice — saucers or plastic toboggans. We prefer a rubber inner tube for its speed-of-light possibilities and cushiony landing. The incline is steep enough and long enough to gain that “Oh-crap, I-don’t-think-I-can-stop” speed before coasting into the back of Parma Community General Hospital’s parking lot. The bad news: Sledders may walk away with a few twisted ankles and bruised tailbones. The good news: The emergency room is just a short limp away.

Place to See Santa
Lorain Palace Theatre

617 Broadway Ave., Lorain
(440) 245-2323

Trudging through a slush-filled parking lot to wait in line at the mall is not the only way to meet the big guy. From the Saturday after Thanksgiving until the Saturday before Christmas, Santa takes requests from children in the Italian Renaissance splendor of the Lorain Palace Theatre, built in 1928. Even better, the whole thing is filmed and then broadcast the next day on the local cable channel, making Santa’s visitors feel like celebrities in their own right. Santa will be on hand from noon until 2 p.m., but don’t rush off. Family movies are shown every Saturday at 1 p.m., giving you reason to linger in this beautiful restored theater.

Secret Getaway
Louis Penfield House


Nestled in 30 acres of secluded woods, the Louis Penfield House in Willoughby Hills is one of only four Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes in the world open to guests for overnight stays. Travelers from as far away as Japan and Australia come to stay in the house, built in 1955. “We never even meet our guests,” says Paul Penfield, whose father, Louis, commissioned Wright to design the two-floor, three-bedroom house. “We like to allow that feeling of privacy.” (In fact, Penfield keeps the home’s exact address secret until you’ve booked a room.) Like most Wright designs, the Penfield House is built to embrace the surrounding terrain. Its boxy, Oriental frame boasts giant glass windows with stunning views of the woods. A sight path through the trees leads to a cliff overlooking the Chagrin River. Even with the price of $275 per night, some guests love it so much that they’ve made it their home away from home. “We’ve had a woman come back for six visits,” Penfield says.

Way to Meet People


Ever wish you had more gamblers for friends? Fixed: Cleveland Poker Meetup Group. Or maybe your pals aren’t bookish enough? That’s easy enough. Neo-Lit Book Club. Friends are couch potatoes? Northeast Ohio Adventurers Group will get you hiking, biking and exploring. Need Scrabble partners? Someone who speaks French? Drink wine or beer with? Watch obscure movies? No matter what you like to do, there is a group of Clevelanders who get together regularly and are almost always looking for more to join in via meetup.com, the site that boosted former presidential candidate Howard Dean into popularity. Clevelanders are one of the more active groups on this Web site, and it’s free to join. Plus how can you pass up a chance to become friends with a guy who calls himself Doug Poker? With a nickname like that, we’re pushing all in every time.

DIY Project
Ohio City Bike Co-op

1823 Columbus Road, Cleveland
(216) 830-2667

Nothing is quite so manly as getting grease under your fingernails, using tools and fixing something most folks would pay someone else too much to work on. That is, until you have to ask an 11-year-old how to remove a spoke. But that’s part of the beauty of the Ohio City Bike Co-op, a gritty do-it-yourself shop that’s actually located in the Flats. Everyone is willing to help out a novice, so long as you’re willing to take direction from whoever knows best, whether that’s a professional bike mechanic or preteen Evan Survance. For a reasonable fee, you can learn all the ins and outs of bike maintenance and repair. You’ll find yourself spending your spare hours fiddling with your own bike and practicing on the donated ones, which are sold to the public to raise money for the co-op. You can even earn credits to use on bike parts or a whole new-to-you ride.

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