Wednesday, May 22, 2013

24 hours in Cleveland -- a fine meal plus immersion in rock-and-roll nostalgia

I traveled to Cleveland early last week to do a CLE talk about practical considerations in litigating online free speech cases.  The crowd was fairly small but putting together the talk was a useful exercise in thinking more systematically about the tactical and strategic issues I face every day in selecting the cases that will make a difference in the legal protections for speech, and then helping my clients prevail both in court and in the marketplace of ideas.

I flew in Monday night and met my brother-in-law Eric and his friend for dinner – they took me to Crop Bistro, a nouvelle American cuisine restaurant in a giant serving room with 37 foot high ceilings and large murals at either end — it used to be a bank.  I had a delicious “cherry bomb” appetizer: a plum tomato stuffed with chorizo and cheese, encased in a wonton skin, then fried.  

Cherry Bomb at Crop Bistro
Two nice salads were the roasted beets (red and yellow) and an asparagus salad

My grilled Tasmanian salmon was cooked just right and served with quinoa good, but the desserts particularly stood out:  “fire and ice” was sweet white chocolate but served in a sauce flecked with red pepper, one of my favorite combinations.

After the talk ended the next day, I headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; my hosts were kind enough to pay for my ticket, explaining that they were glad to show off their city. But Cleveland’s main claim to rock and role fame is mainly that Alan Freed, one of the original rock-promoting DJ’s who was eventually drummed out of his profession as a result of the payola scandal, got his career started in Cleveland (at first I was annoyed by the lack of acknowledgment of how his career had ended, but if you got all the way to the final exhibits, where there was a section entirely devoted to Freed, the museum was ultimately fairly candid about how his career ended, even if full of excuses for what he did). 

The museum is housed in a striking I.M. Pei building along Lake Erie

although most of the exhibits are below ground level.  I had been in the Hall of Fame fairly soon after it opened as I recall, when I was attending a TDU convention in Cleveland in the mid-1990's.  It compared well when I visited Seattle's Experimental Music Project on a work trip about ten years ago.   But I remembered little from my first visit, and I gathered that the main exhibit area had recently been renovated.  

Motown display case at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The museum has a fine collection of memorabilia (clothing, guitars and other instruments, handwritten lyrics and musician contracts -- even some of the wreckage from the plane in which Otis Redding went down), organized sometimes by artist or genre, sometimes by recording company; some of the bigger names had their own display cases, or even multiple cases.

There were several banks of interactive terminals that let you compare musicians with their influences and the like, but I had relatively little time for the museum so I spent next to no time checking them out.  The highlight of the museum has to be the audio clips and video of performances and interviews.   The collection begins with the many roots of rock and roll in jazz, blues, gospel and country (for me, the roots collections were best part, as well as a pointer toward more music to which I should be listening) but also continues close to the present. 

There was so much there that although I had close to three hours before I had to head back to the airport to catch my plane home, I felt I had had to rush through particularly at the end.  I am not sure I could have spent a whole day there to take the collection in all at once; by the time I left I was feeling overwhelmed, but there was easily a day full of things worth seeing. One criticism – the various exhibits are packed so close together that the sound from one set of clips was often clearly audible in adjacent viewing areas.