Trains & Thao

Welcome to the Cincinnati Dinner Train, where what’s on the menu tonight . . . is you.

Okay, so the Cincinnati Dinner Train is in fact not a cannibalistic pleasure cruise. This line came to me last night while I was trying and failing to fall asleep, and I thought it could be a nifty premise for a horror movie.

I love riding on trains. I also love eating, drinking, and trying new things. This combined love is why the Cincinnati Dinner Train has been on my Things to Conquer list for several years now. This past weekend, I was finally able to cross it off.

We parked in a warehouse parking lot, then followed some finely dressed people towards the back of the lot where the train was awaiting. We had an extremely unflattering photo taken in the chilly wind by a kindly old man, and boarded the train. Our table was located in the Oasis Tavern car, which in a previous life had housed folks who worked for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

For three hours and approximately 25 miles, we rode the industrial rails of Cincinnati. Pushed half the way, then pulled the other half back to the station. It was gray and rainy outside, and the views through our foggy window were not always what one would consider “scenic.” But inside, the ambiance was warm and the setting and staff were pleasant. We drank champagne with friends K & A, made inappropriate jokes, and in general had a lovely night.

This selfie, however, was extremely flattering.

Then, to round out my birthday month, we traveled down to Cincinnati again last night, this time for the Thao show at the Woodward.  We were originally supposed to see Thao – formerly of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – play in St Louis in 2020, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons.  So, when we saw she was going on tour this year and was coming to Cincy, we got very excited. I love Thao’s music.  Her particular brand of rock is quirky, inventive, and catchy as hell.  Her records are great, though for me, Thao is at her best, her most goddamnedly delightful, when performing live.  The songs rock harder.  The energy on stage is incredible.  Thao’s vibe is charmingly offbeat, and she and the band are clearly having a blast.

Here is “Nobody Dies,” one of my favorite songs of hers:

I first discovered Thao back in 2016, when I was on holiday in New Orleans. She happened to be playing the same week I was there with my old comrade Kat. Kat was already a fan and the timing was kismet, so we went. The performance was, quite simply, electrifying. One of my favorite shows ever. Last night’s show – my first since the pandemic began – ranked right up there with that first time in New Orleans.


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