Blackout didnít stop the 'rock out' at HMH19

AJ & The Woods performing at The Fairmount during the Sept. 13 blackout. [photo courtesy FutureHeights]

The seventh annual Heights Music Hop (HMH19), which took place Sept. 12–14, turned out to be unlike the previous six hops. It had more bands—82 in total—and 34 venues, in three districts over three nights: Thursday in Coventry Village, Friday in Cedar Fairmount and Saturday in Cedar Lee. The last evening featured a makers’ market of local vendors on the vacant lot at Lee Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard.

The evening of Friday the 13th began beautifully. The sun was out and the winds were calm for the first part of the evening, but the full moon portended something ominous. The forecast had called for rain and potential thunderstorms beginning about 10:30 that evening, but at about 8:30 p.m. a brisk wind blew in, culminating in a violent storm that the National Weather Service later confirmed was a microburst.

“Thirty minutes before my set the rain pushed us indoors and 15 minutes later the power went out,” said Thessalonian Turner, a member of the eponymously named band that was scheduled to play at Luna Bakery Café at 9 p.m. that evening, in a Facebook post. “People scattered but Jeremy Poparad got his acoustic guitar, we found some light and people that I’ve never met listened to me share my heart. They stayed until the end. I’m inspired more than ever!”

The storm caused blackouts in several neighborhoods, including the south side of Cedar Fairmount. At The Fairmount, where bands were set to play on the outdoor patio, Kiss Me Deadly quickly wrapped up its set as rain began to pour down, and the Heights Music Hop 2019 team quickly worked to get the band’s equipment under cover. Members of AJ & The Woods were waiting inside The Fairmount for their scheduled 9:30 p.m. performance when the power went out. Not missing a beat, the band played an acoustic set in the dark as the crowd listened intently. Upstairs at Green Tara Yoga, Michael McFarland continued on in the dark.

“What happened tonight [Sept. 13] exemplifies the love these musicians and all of the musicians who played tonight have for the spirit of this festival and this community,” posted Jason Patrick Meyers, a member of the Heights Music Hop 2019 team, on Facebook.

“On Saturday morning, it became evident that power was out at several businesses on Lee Road, and the damage from the storm was so widespread that we doubted it would be restored by that evening,” said Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, the nonprofit community development corporation that organizes Heights Music Hop. “Five of our 19 venues for that night were impacted by the outage, but we made the decision to move forward knowing that it’s one of the biggest nights of the year for our local businesses. And, we thought that residents without power might want to be with others, where there was music and light.”

Despite the lack of power, three of the impacted venues were able to accommodate performances that evening. Using a portable generator, The Rib Cage relocated its live music acts to the city-owned parking lot next door to its venue, where it was hosting its traditional pig roast. Dewey’s Pizza’s musical acts were able to perform acoustically on its outdoor patio. CLE Urban Winery was able to open its garage door-style windows and host music by candlelight.

“Our team—Ann, Jason, Eric and Josh—did an amazing job quickly reorganizing to accommodate the power issues, consult with those affected, and communicate changes on social media—all while remaining calm,” said Bremer Fisher. “I’m proud of them, and I’m proud of our community for coming together like it did. This year’s Heights Music Hop is one I will never forget.”

Although power was restored to all businesses on Lee Road by Sunday evening, Meyers urged Heights residents to make a special effort to visit Cedar Lee: “Take a night sometime soon and support one of these businesses that were impacted by the power outage, grab a drink at New Heights Grill, a pizza at Dewey's Pizza - Cedar Lee, guacamole at Lopez, some BBQ at Rib Cage, or a glass of wine at CLE Urban Winery. Maybe you could even pair it with a concert from one of the five acts that weren't able to perform on Saturday—Vanishing ShoresHolden LaurenceKey to the MintThe Prom Queens, and Maddie Indre.” 

Ann Koslow

Ann Koslow is the Heights Music Hop coordinator for FutureHeights.

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Volume 12, Issue 10, Posted 6:30 PM, 09.30.2019