Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tonight in Cleveland - Arty Party featuring The Very Knees (August 8th edition)

There are four types of parties, when you think about it.

First, there are the parties that you expect will be awesome and end up being awesome. These are undoubtedly great to go to. Meeting expectations (or having your expectations met) is always a nice thing.

Second, there are the parties that you expect will be awesome and end up being considerably less so. Obviously, these are not great to go to. You feel like you wasted your time and maybe a little sad for the party-throwers.

Third, there are parties you have low expectations for and (in this case, unfortunately) those expectations are met. You knew it was going to suck and, yep, it sucked. Ordinarily, unless you are a social masochist, you only go to these things because you have to - ordinarily it is because your favorite aunt or cousin is throwing it or because your selfish significant other is forcing you. Still, your ability to predict suckiness doesn't make the experiential part of the evening any better. After all, it isn't like you are predicting lottery numbers or major NFL upsets.

Finally, there are those magic, mythical parties - the ones where you expected little to no fun being had, but instead you found yourself amid a sea of awesome. These are, without a doubt, the best parties to be at, definitely the best ones to come home from and to talk about later. They often include meeting new friends that you just immediately click with, or taking someone attractive home (or being taken home by them), or being allowed to stuff the tupperware you just happened to have in your trunk full of delicious buffalo wings. I suppose it is possible to have a party where all three things happened, but come on - this isn't the nightlife equivalent of Field of Dreams!

Anyway, this expository introduction is to say that I have it on good authority (namely my own, but when have I ever steered you wrong?) that tonight's party - the one I'm about to tell you about - is going to be either Option 1 or Option 4. Either way, you go home happy (and maybe not alone), but the level of anticipation depends on how much you believe my endorsement.

The party in question is simply named Arty Party, a title as parsimonious as it is descriptive. After all, it is an artistic event with a party happening all around it. The shindig goes down at GRAVITY PLACE, which is located in the flats at 1250 Riverbed Place #206, near Nautica and the Powerhouse. Featured artists include Jake Kelly, Alex Tapie, 1930 Orb, and Lu-Owl.

As interesting as all that is, and I sure you it is very interesting, I'm particularly excited for the rock portion of the program. Rounding out the bill for live performances are Casual Encounters (who quite possibly have the best drummer in Cleveland), Grand Rapids-based The Lightning Bugs, and - the biggest treat in my opinion - Cleveland's very own The Very Knees.

If you've spent any time at the Beachland lately, you are certain to recognize the duo who make up The Very Knees. Guitarist and vocalist Dave P. is the tall drink of water holding down the fort at that awesome little vintage shop in the venue's basement, the one you tell all your friends about, This Way Out, and drummer Cindy C. has been known to sling some drinks upstairs at the bar. The band has a style and appearance that strikes me as the epitome of rock. For example, I remember the two playing an outdoor set in front of Music Saves on this past Record Store Day and thinking they stepped out of the pages of some awesome magazine, a combination of young Rolling Stones and The White Stripes.

Actually, The White Stripes reference is apt and one that'll probably occur to you the first time you see them, if only for the male singer/guitarist and female drummer parallel. For that reason, I'm sure it also irritates the shit out of Dave & Cindy, but fortunately I'm typing this from the safe and disheveled confines of CB HQ (i.e., my dingy little home office), rather than in a place where the bandmates can peer over my shoulder and berate and/or intimidate me into changing the prose.

So, given that, let's go with the comparison, knowing full well it is the lazy man's review technique. Like Jack & Meg, the band tends to favor a simple yet solid approach on the drum kit that allows the frequently chuggy and distorted guitar work to meander at will. Unlike the Striped Ones, however, Dave's guitar work is more wild, not as frequently precious as Jack White has become, and The Very Knees bring a noisier, punkier edge to their sound. It works pretty well, especially on the band's most recent release, a two-track single available currently on vinyl only.

Side one features "Hidden O(h)ms," a post-industrial narrative of hipster love and desperation, all backed by steadfast and thundering work on the kit and alternating fuzzed-out upper register guitar noodling and and grungy garage rhythm work. The most attractive part of the song, however, are the lyrics. There are a handful of choice lines that, when I hear them, give me a little one-corner smile. From the sweetness of "When we first met - onstage in the dark/Now my eyes light up - when she phones in my horoscope" to the hope-filled pragmatism of struggle in "A secret chant in headphones/blanket you when you're cold/make shit up as you go" to the ultimate conclusion of rock and roll romance's redemption "We're all the same - CAT PEOPLE/we've all damaged SOFT TISSUE/The way we feel is MUTUAL/The way we feel is MUTUAL." Never before has the word "mutual" - typically saved for awkward early dating conversations designed to test whether one partner likes the other as much as they do - seemed so celebratory.

Side two presents "Anthony Rogan Cross," the shorter and less complex of the two songs. The track begins with some choppy, chuggy guitar, with a medium amount of feedback and a twitch of angry guitar jangles, before Dave comes in on vocals with "I've got the sweetest thing ... from anyone ... EVER!" The track goes on to discuss in sparse detail a dream he'd had about being a bird, but the last minute of the song is a sonic seminar, with Cindy beating the shit out of her drums and Dave working the guitar like a toy. By the end, with the grit and the howls, you just start to think to yourself "Nirvana?" but the track ends before you are able to figure it out.

Nevertheless, if you really want to try figuring it out, check out tonight's party. More details can be found here. If you see me - I'll be the guy who forgot to put on deodorant and needs to trim his incipient beard - feel free to hand me a thank you beer. You know, for telling you about this bash in the first place.


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