2010 Best of Cleveland: Entertainment & Attractions

Bar Band
Cramming into the basement of the Main Street Cafe in Medina on a late summer Friday night doesn't bother the Knock-Offs or their fans. Sitting, standing or dancing on the makeshift dance floors scattered throughout the space, people sing along to the quartet's lineup of covers. No doubt, the band's energetic performances have the crowd moving, but there's science here, too. Drummer Chris Reynolds scouted more than 30 cover bands to perfect the 10-year-old band's catalog of music, which shifts from Neil Diamond's nostalgic "Sweet Caroline" to Beastie Boys' anthem "No Sleep to Brooklyn" to Don Henley's classic "The Boys Of Summer." "I wrote down each song played and the crowd's reaction," Reynolds says. That's why you'll frequently find the Knock-Offs at the Blind Pig downtown and Hook, Line & Drinkers in Akron, but Reynolds says the band is happy playing anywhere they just want to play. "It's the greatest job in the world," he says. "We get free food, free booze and make a little money." theknock-offs.com

A pool hall without booze? So maybe Fast Eddie Felson wouldn't approve, but don't be so quick to hustle on past L & L Billiards in Garfield Heights. That's because the billiards spot makes up for the lack of liquor by focusing on the game. "I wanted a nice, casual place where the kids in the neighborhood could come play pool," says owner Lawrence Yovanno. Snapshots of retro, pool-playing celebrities such as Willie Mosconi cover the green-striped walls. Cozy rows of 9-foot Brunswick Anniversary tables from 1948 with solid walnut rails make it a place for players of all skill levels. And the bonus? The staff is happy to offer advice. Yovanno knows shots from basic moves to strategic jump shots and is prepared to offer up his wisdom Thursday through Sunday to anyone willing to learn. 4827 Turney Road, Garfield Heights, 216-341-6050

Buckeye Celebration
The best way to watch OSU battle Michigan on Nov. 27 is from a seat inside the Horseshoe. But if you can't score tickets to the annual rivalry, don your scarlet and gray for the Cleveland Rovers and P.J. McIntyre's OSU/Michigan Pig Roast. Owner Patrick Campbell transforms his Irish pub in West Park for an all-you-can-eat and drink affair at $30 a person to benefit the Rovers, two-time Canton Hall of Fame 10s rugby champions. (And in case you've forgotten since college, rugby players can party.) Yes, there's a pig roasting out back. There's pasta, potato salad, hot dogs and beer (for an hour before and after the game). Attendees receive free T-shirts and giveaways plus a chance to win a grand prize (last year's was a flat-screen TV). Oh yeah, let's not forget about the football. The bar will be outfitted with a projection screen of the game and 10 other TVs to make it easy to watch the on-field roast. 17119 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-941-9311, pjmcintyres.com

It only costs $2 to ride a snow leopard at the Akron Zoo only this leopard is wooden and a bit less agile than usual. It's one of 33 different animals on the zoo's new carousel, which opened in July. These hand-painted creatures, including an elephant, a dolphin and a Komodo dragon, have us excited about riding the merry-go-round again. And yes, kids of all ages (including adults) can ride their giraffe or jaguar of choice. When the carousel stops, you can even find your animal on a map to learn where it's from. But those who don't want to ride should still admire the animals, which are all hand-carved art pieces from the Carousel Works in Mansfield. The carousel animals hibernate in the winter, but you can catch them in motion through Boo at the Zoo, which ends Oct. 30. 500 Edgewater Ave., Akron, 330-375-2550, akronzoo.org

Film Series
Late at night, film becomes obsession. On select Saturdays, when the witching hour tolls, the horror fiends, nostalgia hounds and so-bad-it's-good mockers descend upon the Cedar Lee and Capitol theaters. Often at midnight and never before 9:30, Cleveland Cinemas screens cult or near-cult classics that just aren't the same without a crowd's laughter or screams. (Jaws, for instance, plays the Cedar Lee Oct. 2.) "To me, the easiest way to tell if a film's a cult film is if people come as characters," says marketing director David Huffman, who books the Late Shift Film Series. Bathrobe-clad fans will amble into the Cedar Lee, imitating The Dude, for the annual showing of The Big Lebowski on Dec. 4 (and bowling party at the Corner Alley Nov. 28). Two movies screen every month: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a Cedar Lee staple for 21 years, and The Room, an unintentionally hilarious failed drama. On Oct. 16, the Capitol hosts Late Shift's first horror marathon, 12 Hours of Terror. The creepy endurance test, 10 p.m. to 10 a.m., includes Nightmare On Elm Street, Child's Play, five other gore fests and a continental breakfast. 2163 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 440-528-0355; 1390 W. 65th St., Cleveland, 440-528-0355; clevelandcinemas.com

Lawn Bowling
Forget about the sweat-soaked bowling shoes at your neighborhood bowling alley. The Forest Hill Park Lawn Bowling Club takes the game outdoors on 14,400 square feet of putting green perfection on land that was once a part of the John D. Rockefeller Estate. "It's about the socializing and the camaraderie," says club member Chris Kious. "You don't have to bring any equipment and there are no uniforms." The only exception to uniforms is for Sunday tournaments, when bowlers must wear white from head to toe. Bowlers meet every Sunday at 2 p.m. and Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Forest Hill Lawn Bowling Greens to eat, drink and bowl. Mixing the concept of bocce with the technique of bowling, the game is free for anyone who wants to try, but there's a $100 membership fee for those interested in joining the club. Forest Hill Park, Forest Hills Boulevard, East Cleveland, 440-352-1978

Motown/R&B Band
Covering Motown hits is harder than it looks. Your band needs an encyclopedic repertoire: If the audience knows a hit, you should know it too. You need a snappy horn section to give the songs that deep, soaring feel. And not just any singer will do. They've got to hit a whole spectrum of emotions, from the lovelorn sorrow that propelled so many Motown singles to the joyous nostalgia they evoke now. Heart & Soul gets it right. Frontman Stevon Wolf has toured with the Drifters, giving him an intimate knowledge of classic soul. With his broad vocal range, he can cover legends such as Marvin Gaye with subtle ease. Denise Pace, also a lead vocalist, combines a deep, powerful voice with stage presence honed while acting at Karamu House and the Cleveland Play House. The band performs often on Motown/dance nights at the Savannah in Westlake, but they're extremely versatile: They've also got alternate set lists of modern dance music, rock and romantic nightclub ballads. heartandsoulshow.org

Outdoor Cornhole
Looking for a friendly game of cornhole and a few beverages? Or maybe you're feeling a little more competitive. Well, Flyers Bar and Grill has you covered either way. The Parma Heights tavern offers walk-up cornhole as well as Monday night leagues run by the Northeast Ohio Cornhole Association so you know they're the real deal. Leagues, which start at just $40 for a team to play for four weeks, cover amateur, intermediate and advanced levels, so anyone can play. In fact, they're so successful they've even drawn some big names to their patio. Parma-native Matt Strzala, the No. 8-ranked pro cornhole player in the country (we didn't know you could go pro either), plays in front of a crowd of around 100 people every Monday. So enjoy a game anytime with your friends, or challenge Strzala if you think you can handle it. 6298 Pearl Road, Parma Heights, 440-842-1964

Overlooked Park
Rapid trains chug by overhead, and cars rumble across the Columbus Street Bridge, yet the Hart Crane Memorial Park is quiet enough to hear the sounds of a poet's imagination. Crane's verses describing the "far strum of foghorns" and "chiming buoys" spring out in relief from a crescent-shaped metal sculpture, as if echoing the stray noises of Cleveland's 1920s riverfront. Local artist Gene Kangas created several sculptures honoring Crane, an Ohio native and author of the epic 1930 poem "The Bridge." A rust-colored archway rises in harmony with the steel span connecting the Flats to Duck Island. Twisting blue tubes evoke the crooked Cuyahoga River, which flows past the park, more brown than blue. But when sun shines on it, little gold specks glow and trees and vines reflect across it mirroring Crane's vision of bridge and waterfront as the foot of a city, where modern motion meets nature. Columbus Road and Merwin Avenue, Cleveland

Pop Music Makeover
Most guys loathe any Britney Spears or 'N Sync song and hate watching Dirty Dancing. So it's a refreshing surprise to hear the all-male band Pop Rocks take fluffy, sappy and just plain-old cheesy pop songs and rock them out with heavy guitar riffs. What girl doesn't want to listen to "She's Like the Wind" and fantasize about Patrick Swayze sweeping her off her feet? Or belt out "Cruel Summer" with a group of friends? That's exactly what drummer Tom Phillips thought when he formed Pop Rocks three years ago with his fellow band mates. "If we are going to throw away our artistic integrity and play covers, why not put a little twist on them?" he says. Classic bubble-gum tunes such as Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" and Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" are now fueled with testosterone, making the hits enjoyable for all. myspace.com/poprocksbandcleveland


It's a half-hour nerdy tour de force. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History recently completed a nearly $300,000 upgrade to the Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium's projectors and software, and the results will awaken your inner Luke Skywalker (or Princess Leia). For $14 or an extra $4 with paid admission to the museum, you can see stars now rotate around the ceiling with trails to accentuate their movement. Constellations take shape and are then twisted and contorted as the viewer's vantage point changes from Earth to a thousand light-years outside the solar system. And in a final flourish, you travel from Earth to the outer reaches of the known universe with a final image that left us feeling gloriously infinitesimal. 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, 216-231-4600, cmnh.org

Three-Season Patio
Clevelanders love their patios, maybe because dining al fresco is so fleeting here. But Jekyll's Kitchen in Chagrin Falls helps us embrace our Midwestern weather reality with two patios that extend our outdoor dining pleasure from April through Thanksgiving. Bar heaters at Hyde's Cabana Bar warm the happy hour and late-night crowds while afternoon diners watch Ohio State football games on mounted TVs as flames dance in the stone fireplace behind them. Once the weather drops to 40 to 55 degrees, plastic drapes protect the bar area so it stays at 60 to 70 degrees. "We can get it warm enough that you have to wear short sleeves in there in November," says Joe Saccone, partner of Hyde Park Restaurant Group. An awning protects the more intimate back patio set a stone's throw from the Chagrin River waterfall. Unobtrusive heaters hang above the tables so you don't have to snuggle to stay warm. But you might want to anyway the view of the cascading falls sparks that kind of romance. 17 River St., Chagrin Falls, 440-893-0797, jekyllskitchen.com

Trout Fishing
Steelhead trout are a nasty bunch. Fishing for one is "like trying to pull in a fighting wolverine," says Randy Bruback, a seasoned fisherman on the Grand River. That challenge draws hundreds of anglers to the river year after year. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the Ohio Division of Wildlife stocks the river with 90,000 steelhead annually. "A good fly fisherman will catch 20 to 30 fish in one day," Bruback says. "There's [no place] better in the state of Ohio." The Grand River's bedrock bottom makes steelhead fishing ideal as it leaves more oxygen in the water, which helps steelhead flourish. If you're up for a challenge, the city of Painesville even hosts a steelhead fishing tournament in March and April. Either way, bring your flies and your nerve. 440-392-5905 (the number for recreation and public lands), painesville.com
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