Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not to be missed

Tonight in Cleveland - Brazilian psych-pop legends, Os Mutantes. This is a show of a lifetime, folks, and while some have hesitated when seeing the ticket price, the Beachland is currently offering 2 for 1 deals on tickets, so grab a pal (or someone to gaudily make out with in the back of the venue) and get your "important" indie rock on. Call the Beachland for inquiries at 216.383.1124.

Still not sold? Check out the long-form bio then, courtesy the Beachland's website (and, likely, Os Mutantes publicist).

Though rarely heard outside their Brazilian homeland (especially during their brief career), Os Mutantes were one of the most dynamic, talented, radical bands of the psychedelic era — quite an accomplishment during a period when most every rock band spent quality time exploring the outer limits of pop music. A trio of brash musical experimentalists, the group fiddled with distortion, feedback, musique concrète, and studio tricks of all kinds to create a lighthearted, playful version of extreme Brazilian pop.

The band was formed by the two Baptista brothers, Arnaldo (bass, keyboards) and Sérgio (guitar). In 1964, the pair (sons of a celebrated São Paulo concert pianist) formed a teenage band named the Wooden Faces. After they met Rita Lee, the three played together in the Six Sided Rockers before graduation broke up the band. Yet another name change (to O Conjunto) preceded the formation of Os Mutantes in 1965, the name coming from the science fiction novel O Planeta Dos Mutantes. With a third Baptista brother (Cláudio) helping out on electronics, the group played each week on a Brazilian TV show (O Pequeno Mundo de Ronnie Von) and became involved with the burgeoning tropicalia movement. Mutantes backed tropicalista hero Gilberto Gil at the third annual Festival of Brazilian Music in 1967, then appeared on the watershed 1968 LP Tropicalia: Ou Panis et Circenses, a compilation of songs from the movement's major figures: Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Nara Leão.

By the end of 1968, Os Mutantes delivered their self-titled debut, a raucous, entertaining mess of a record featuring long passages of environmental sounds, tape music, and tortured guitar lines no self-respecting engineer would've allowed in the mix (especially at such a high volume). After time spent backing Veloso and recording a second LP of similarly crazed psychedelic pop, the band ventured to France and Europe for a few music conference shows. Returning to Brazil, they set up their own multimedia extravaganza — complete with film, actors, dancing, and audience participation. Despite distractions of all kinds, the group also managed to record LPs in 1970 (Divina Comedia Ou Ando Meio Desligado) and 1971 (Jardim Eletrico), both of which charted the band's shifting interests from psychedelic to blues and hard rock.

After 1972's E Seus Cometas No Pais Do Baurets, Rita Lee departed or was fired from the band (accounts vary), and resumed a solo career that ran concurrently with Os Mutantes (her debut, 1970s Build Up, had been co-produced by the Baptistas). Later Mutantes LPs displayed influences from prog rock, and after Arnaldo Baptista left the fold as well, the band's LPs included a succession of bandmembers — later-to-be-legendary producer Liminha, keyboard player Túlio, and drummer Rui Motta. Except for a 1976 live record, 1974's Tudo Foi Feito Pelo Sol was the band's final LP. Sérgio later moved to America, where he played with Phil Manzanera, among others.

After recording a 1974 solo album, Arnaldo played with a new band (Space Patrol) during the late '70s and spent time in a psychiatric hospital before emerging for his second solo work, 1982's Singin' Alone. Meanwhile, though Rita Lee's solo career began sputtering near the end of the '80s, the band turned down a request for a 1993 reunion show by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. Six years later, the Omplatten label reissued the first three Mutantes records, and David Byrne assembled the Everything Is Possible compilation through Luaka Bop. In 2006, the band reunited for a performance in London. A year later, they collaborated with DJ JD Twitch for Trocabrahma, a cultural exchange program.

Monday, September 28, 2009

America's most ridiculously terrible indie rock "artist" strikes again

God I hate the dude from the Black Lips. Actually, all of them seem like utter wastes of flesh, but Jared Swilley is the worst.

For those of you who don't remember, this is the dude who assaulted one of his fans at their last Beachland show, snuck out like a coward to hide from the cops, and then came back in, dressed differently, talking smack about how bad he was, all while keeping a lookout for any more 5-0.

Note to Black Lips D-bag #1, when dude from the Allman Brothers stabbed a dude in a bar, he sat down and finished his beer. He didn't run like a California ex-felon one mistake away from a 3-strikes life term. You are stupid and a sissy.)

Anyway, you've certainly heard that Wavves (hooray for Wavves!) beat his ass last weekend, a long-deserved beat-down both for how he's been calling out Wavves dude and for Swilley's general crimes against human decency. That made me feel good to hear about - there was certainly much supportive Wavves-talk around the Beachland this weekend where it seems like the Black Lips fuck has few if any supporters. And then, genius that he is, Black Lips Douche #1 goes and proves he's an illiterate homophobe. Jackass likes to throw out sexual orientation slurs like they are going out of style.

But what do you expect from a proud white dude from the south? This dude is the retarded Jerry Falwell of indie rock.

Wavves for President, 2016!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This just happened in America ...

Can you believe this? Like some Latin American "disappearance" - military dudes roll up in an unmarked sedan, force a guy inside, and speed off.

I don't want to hear any more patriotic, land of the free bullshit ever again.

Tonight in Cleveland - Died Young, Stayed Pretty at the CIA Cinematheque

Last time I'm gonna notify you of this awesomeness. In fact, this time, I'll just let John G's art do all the communicating for me:

The Week Ahead: 9/27-10/3 (CB Moving Week Edition)

So much going on this week and next, and yours truly has been bailing and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable short term future. This week has been packing week and next week is moving week (as well as switching utilities, having old and new homes cleaned, and throwing out my back carrying heavy book boxes week). So, in other words, all the cool stuff you see mentioned below will likely not be attended by me. For those of you hoping for an anonymous CB sighting, I'm sorry. That just isn't going to happen this week. For those of you who have similar cultural tastes as I do, but avoid me like the plague (hey, it happens), you can feel secure in the knowledge that you'll be able to check all this cool stuff out without worrying about me mouth-breathing and judging you. So there's that.

Sunday, 9/27 - For a Sunday, you got a bunch of good choices. Obviously, the afternoon default choice is to watch the Browns play the Ravens at 1. If you can't take that after an hour, though, you can get your high culture fix by catching screenings of either The End of the Line (1:30 PM) at the Cleveland Museum of Art or Director Robert Dornhelm's filmic recreation of Puccini's famous opera La Boheme (2:PM) at the Cedar-Lee.

Whatever you do during the day, be sure you remain seated as much as possible, conserving energy for the sheer rockage you are in store for Sunday night at the Beachland Ballroom. Seminal yet forgotten African-American proto-punk band Death has reunited the living members and gone on tour in support of the 2009 release of a long-lost album recorded in the 1970s. These guys are getting freak-out level endorsements from the highest places, including a swooning Jack White and Mos Def (the latter of which recently announced plans to make a film about the Detroit/Vermont band), so prepare yourself for the nice kind of shock and awe. Better yet, local ass-kickers This Moment in Black History will be opening. This show is gonna rule. (Check out this NYT article for a little background on Death - if your eardrums could salivate, they'd be doing so after you read that piece.)

Monday, 9/28 - Go to the Indians game. I have it on good authority this is the only game they will win between now and the end of the season. You want to see that, right?

Tuesday, 9/29 - CSU's Schwartz Library is hosting a Banned Books event to coincide with Banned Book Week. Expect liberals and, well, literates to be there celebrating cultural victories over the knee-jerk right-wing mom squads while republicans and philistines scour the shelves for the latest nominees for the burning pile, uh, I mean, banned book list.

Wednesday, 9/30 - A couple good shows and they are both at the Beachland. In the ballroom, you'll find Brazilian psych-pop big boys Os Mutantes, while on the Tavern side you'll be treated to Amazing Baby and The Entrance Band. Tough choice, but I'm confident you'll make the right decision for you.

Thursday, 10/1 - Four good options tonight - let's go after them bullet style:
* Chicago conscious rapper Common appears at the House of Blues (Get there early and hit up the happy hour first!)
* Poets Mark Doty and Paul Lisicky present their work at CSU thanks to the university's Poetry Center
* Last chance to see Dead Snow at the Cedar-Lee. Please don't be the kind of person to pass up an opportunity to see a zombie Nazi flick.
* The Windmill Movie screens at the CIA Cinematheque

Friday, 10/2 - The undisputed highlight of this evening is theWoven Hand at Akron Musica. David Eugene Edwards didn't just drink the Jesus Juice, he turned it into Fire-Breathing Almighty God Whiskey and drank the whole barrel. This guy is about the only religious musician I can stomach, other than perhaps Daniel Smith (certainly not that Sufjan Stevens dip). These dudes RARELY tour the US, so miss this at your peril. Even if you haven't a clue about the band, check it out - this absolutely merits a road trip to Akron. Think old-world rock as conceptualized by Jonathan Edwards. We're all going to hell right after an angry Old Testament god kicks the shit out of us, and in the meantime, lets get dark and nasty and frightful as David Eugene and his pals rip up the stage. This shit will leave you with goose bumps, I promise.

If that doesn't get your blood pumping, there are a couple good gallery openings to feast your eyes upon. William Rupnik Gallery presents the work of John Ryan, one of my favorite artists in the region, while the Annex at Shoparooni presents a hype-worthy exhibit featuring Johnny Yanok.

Saturday, 10/3 - I'm not much for short story fiction, but when I'm in the mood, the first writer to come to mind is Etgar Keret. OK, not the first - that's probably Flannery O'Connor and sometimes even Raymond Carver (and, once in a blue moon, Herman Mellville), but Keret is the one I usually end up picking up. The author of wonderful collections like The Nimrod Flip-out (so, so good) and The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God, the Israeli writer is fast becoming best known for the inspired films others have created from his written work. For example, 2007's insanely delightful Wristcutters: A Love Story came from his work, and now we are treated, courtesy of the CIA Cinematheque, to two screenings of the latest Keret adaptation, $9.99. You simply gotta check out the trailer below - it is, in a word, wonderful. (Check out a recent NYT review here.)

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:

- 10/5 - Yo La Tengo @ Beachland
- 10/6 - Mofro @ Beachland
- 10/7 - Loren Cass screens at the Cleveland Museum of Art
- 10/8 - Japandroids @ Now That's Class
- 10/9 - BB King @ House of Blues
- 10/9 - Noel Quintana and the Latin Crew @ CSU
- 10/10 - Birthday Party @ Shoparooni!
- 10/10 - Kurt Vile @ Oberlin
- 10/10 - OU graduate program exhibit @ Asterisk Gallery
- 10/10 - Low Life Gallery Spooktacular exhibit opening
- 10/11 - Asobi Seksu/Loney Dear/Anna Ternheim @ Grog Shop
- 10/11 - Black Angels/Disappears/Pierced Arrows @ Beachland

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I love music

I can't even count how many albums by previously unknown (to me) bands I've listened to this year. Between this blog and Citizen Dick, I get like a billion in my email and US mail every week and can't ever keep up.

So when a band does make an impression on me, to the point that I actually buy their album, and listen to it over and over and over again, to me at least it is an indicator of something special.

There have been a few such special albums this year so far, and while I'm incredibly happy to have been turned on to projects like Abe Vigoda, Suckers, and Ramona Falls, just to name a few, I don't know if anyone has impressed me quite like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Earlier I got the video posted below forwarded to me by a publicist, and while you usually have to take that kind of thing with many grains of salt, I gotta say this time dude wasn't leading me astray.

Check out the video for the band's previously unreleased tune. The whole thing is wonderful, but especially at the 4:30 mark and even more so after, when you see the pure joy these band members experience when putting on their show.

As I said to a friend when I posted this link on his facebook page earlier, I want to be in this band.

I never say shit like that. Check it out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CB's Browns Watch - Reviewing Week 2

I'll say today, four days after the game, what I said 45 minutes after the game ended on Sunday: Republicans are about as good at running the Browns offense as they are running the country.

If you didn't see the game Sunday, I'll spell it out for you: both are very, very bad.

Like last week, time is a commodity I'm low on right now, what with a crazy heap of work on my plate and a move I'm way far behind on preparing for next week. [That's right, the Cleveland (Heights) Bachelor will, this time next week, once again officially be the Cleveland Bachelor, no parenthetical nuance required, courtesy of my move to what right now appears to be the dingiest pleasure pad I've lived in since my senior year in college.]

So, given the temporal limitation, I'll once again return to bullet points. This is the height of hypocrisy for me, in that I absolutely reject anything done in bullet points to cross my desk at work, but whatever. Here it is:

1) For the second week in a row, Quinn sucked. He really sucked. Last week he had garbage yards in the fourth quarter to make his stats look nearly mediocre. This week, not so much. He passed for less than 150 yards, threw a pick and gave up a fumble, and had an overall QB rating of below 60. These are the kind of numbers you roll your eyes at if your third string QB puts them up after the two fellas ahead of him on the depth chart have gone down to injury. These are not numbers for a starting quarterback in the NFL. Brady's response: He has to play better. No shit, RWB. Now, a lot of people don't listen to my anti-Quinn ranting, given the fact that as much of my rejection of his role as our field general is based on his frat boy-esque douchebaggery and his ridiculous political beliefs as it is on the fact that he has a noodle arm and poor option read skills. But this guy at the Cleveland Leader condemns RWB and the managerial stasis that promotes him for no such ideological/anti-douchebag reason. Check that link out - it is a solid argument based in recent Browns history and logic.

2) The fact that RWB is our QB is only 1/2 of the problem our passing game faces. OK - 75%. But the other 1/4-1/2 of it is due to the fact that we just can't run the ball. At all. I'm not sure where to place the blame for this - I really don't want to blame the offensive line, as we have a pretty good one on paper and every scout that matters has said that the one obvious target for criticism - our rookie center - improved measurably this game over the previous. I dunno, but when you gain only 143 yards on 41 carries, it isn't very hard for a pro defense to key on an already weak quarterback.

Also, 143 yards on 41 carries ... that's mediocre for an NFL team to put up in a game. Unfortunately, right now mediocre would be a serious upgrade. Those rushing numbers are the combined total over the past two games. We suck that bad. So bad, even Philadelphia feels bad for us (and the people living there have no soul!), as evidenced by this article, incredibly charitably titled "Mangini, Browns off to rough start." Seriously? "Rough Start"? How about "Mangini, Browns utterly bankrupt in game planning and implementation skill"?

And it won't be improving any time soon, now that Jamal Lewis is missing practices for a bad hamstring, which complements nicely rookie James Davis's shoulder injury. Thank god for Larry Vickers. Oh boy.

(Editor's note: After looking back at that link, I realized the article was actually an AP story, which takes away the whole Philly factor. However, I'm lazy AND pressed for time, and I don't have enough energy or cleverness to come up with a better hook right now, so I'm gonna leave it. Besides, the fans in Philly really are soulless.)

3) It's gonna get worse - a lot worse - before it gets better. Next week we play the Ravens. The Ravens are good this year. Really good. We are in trouble. Right now, the best thing we can hope for is that RWB breaks his leg. Not that I wish physical pain on anyone, even douchebag Republican bad quarterbacks, but the folks in Berea are just not smart enough to bench this hack and a broken leg is the only way we are gonna get him off the field and keep him off the field for the duration of the season. Right now, rather than address the obvious, major personnel problems, the Browns front office has been tinkering at the margins of the roster, releasing TE Rucker and WR Leggett and signing DB Floyd. Given our ineptitude when it comes to signing and retaining players, is it any wonder agents are allegedly steering their clients away from us?

But back to the Ravens. Remember how I pointed out in bullet #2 that we can't run the ball? Well, the Ravens are only giving up 41 yards a game to the rush. We certainly won't be able run against them. Or pass. Or stop them when they try to do either.

We are in some serious trouble, friends.

Photo (above) information: Cleveland Browns' Brady Quinn (10) is sacked by Denver Broncos' Elvis Dumervil (92) during the fourth quarter of a NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, in Denver. Denver beat Cleveland 27-6. (AP Photo/ Jack Dempsey )

CB Q/A #16: Eileen Yaghoobian (Director of Died Young, Stayed Pretty)

Welcome to the 16th edition of the Cleveland Bachelor Q&A series, in which I conduct brief and generally parallel interviews with some of the visiting artists and musicians from out of town that I'm most excited about bringing their skill and energy to Cleveland. Usually these interviews are conducted with musicians, but over the few months I've been doing them, a filmmaker or two has made its way into the mix.

When I first received the CIA Cinematheque's monthly member mailer and read over the films that were screening in the early fall, I knew immediately that Died Young, Stayed Pretty was one I wanted to see. The subject of the documentary, indie rock concert poster making, was one I found intriguing, and everything I'd heard about the film was positive. So much so, not only did I put the date and time of the two screenings on my calender, I also shot off an email to Eileen Yaghoobian, the director and mastermind behind the film.

You can guess how pleased I was when Yaghoobian responded, saying that she'd definitely be into the Q&A idea, but preferred to do it over the phone. Normally, I do these things via email, if only because it makes it easier for folks to respond and to do so at their whim and on their own timetable. However, I'd always rather chat with someone than email them, especially when they say something fascinating and I want to ask a follow-up. I called Eileen at the agreed upon time and we had a lovely chat, the general outline of which has been transcribed below.

Because we had our conversation on the phone, not via email, you are once again subject to my typing skills. As a result, any misspellings, grammar mistakes, and lack of continuity are my fault entirely. If I failed to enlighten you on something you find interesting, make a point of talking to Yaghoobian yourself - she'll be at both screenings of Died Young, Stayed Pretty this weekend when it screens at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

1) Other than other films/filmmakers, where do you find your influences? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.

Movies. I love movies. I get my inspiration from a lot of 70s directors, as well as several European directors. I got into film early. The first time I picked up a camera, I was 15 and I would watch the late night, 2 AM movies. So I’d go in late to school and get my parents to write me a note. I remember when I first saw Antonioni’s Blow Up – I loved the idea of discovering something hidden in the process of the protaganist’s photography. I'm really attracted to the investigative nature of being a filmmaker or artist.

My interest in investigations has influenced everything I've done, from work in theater, animation, to short films.

Landscapes, especially American, also inspire me. In this film, I stayed away from Los Angeles and New York, and gravitated more toward industrial locations in the middle of the country.

I love road trips and movies. And old spaghetti westerns.

And of course music.

Really, I'm inspired by everything.

2) If you were asked by a younger filmmaker about to make his/her first serious and hopefully commercially viable film, what advice would you give him/her? Or is there a better (earlier?) time to give sage advice?

Just don’t stop. You’ll have many reasons to not continue with a project, tons of reasons and they are all very good, valid reasons for you to quit, but don’t.

Every day was like that for me. I shot solo on location for 3 years. I was shooter, editor, director, producer, I had to do everything there was with a feature film. Every day was hard.

I started working on this film in April 2004. I received a lot of personal criticism about the subject. It can be really hard to sustain the amount of interest you'll need to have if you are going to push boundaries and make a good film. It could be easier to make a short, but I really sweated and struggled to make it feature length.

There is no narration in the film, which makes it extremely difficult to enforce your narrative and instead let subjects speak for themselves. But I decided from day one I was not gonna spoon feed the audience.

Another decision I made was that I didn’t put indie rock in film. I didn't want the music to overshadow the artists. I wasn’t making a feature length music video. Instead, Mark Greenberg from The Coctails did all 16 cuts.

3) What is the film festival circuit like? What's the best thing and the worst?

We had our world premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival and our US premiere at South by Southwest. The experiences were exciting and amazing, and it was great to be able to release my films at such wonderful festivals.

4) What's your favorite moment in Died Young, Stayed Pretty?

The end, but I can’t give it away. The end is a gift, the gift of documentary film making.

I went to Providence, RI, where I talked to Brian Chippendale (acclaimed comic and poster artist, as well as the drummer/vocalist of Lightning Bolt). There, all the questions I’d been asking for 3 years he answered without me having to even ask. When it happened that way, I knew it was the perfect wrap for the film.

5) In March, while at the SXSW music festival, I took a walk through the Flatstock exhibit and walked out realizing that a whole inter-connected world of artists and art I'd never really considered before existed and was pretty well aware of (and to some extent enamored with) one another. It certainly changed how I looked at gig posters the rest of my time down in Austin and ever since. What do you think it is that is so vital about this particular form of art and what do you think the future holds for it?

What makes it vital, I think, is that the artists don’t make it for anybody – not the band, not for sales – they are just making it because they are fans and love the music. They can do whatever they want with it. That gives total freedom to the artist's voice.

Because of increased communication between artists, through technology and events like the Flatstock exhibit, we've seen regionalism dissipate, and styles are really crossing over each other. The entire idea of creating art in a bubble is dissipating, though at the same time this is making posters more collectible and sellable.

So, the future? I don’t know.

6) The city of Cleveland has made some noise recently about wanting to make this a more film-friendly city. In your opinion, what are the most important things a city can do to encourage that kind of industry attention?

Tax breaks. Its all about making it more financially attractive (and, thus, possible) for a filmmaker to do their work in your town.

7) Last but not least, any previous Cleveland experiences worth sharing?

You know, I may have driven through once before, but never stayed for a visit. This will be a first for me.

Died Young, Stayed Pretty
will play at the CIA Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard, Cleveland) on Friday, 9/25, at 7:30 PM and on Saturday, 9/26, at 9:40 PM. The film is 95 minutes of awesomeness, and Director Yaghoobian will be present to introduce and discuss the film at both screenings.

I'll be making an appearance on Saturday, and you can bet that a number of Cleveland's own poster artists will be checking the film out, as well. Cleveland's finest poster artist (and CB pal) John G. created his own tribute to the film, poster-style. Check it out below.

Smell of the Week

Blue Arrow Records does it again...

Pete and Debbie at Blue Arrow are some special folks. Their store, Blue Arrow Records, has only been open for a few months, but already it has climbed to the top of my list in terms of favorite places to spend my meager salary in town. Week after week, these guys are hosting in-stores and parties and making good use of their pretty killer built-in band stage in the back corner of the sales floor.

And when these folks do an in-store, they don't just have a cooler of crap beer on the floor - they go all out! We are talking bbq, chili, high quality hot dogs, you name it.

The latest event these fine folks are bringing to our us for the benefit of our ears and bellies will be this Friday (i.e., TOMORROW), when they host the Prisoners album release show. Obviously, Prisoners will take the stage, but they'll also be joined by a pair of other exciting and relatively new Cleveland acts, Uno Lady and Mother Country Madmen.

The get down gets down at about 7 PM, which'll give you plenty of time to dig the scene before heading over to the for the evening's other top FREE event, the Founding Fathers show (Cleveland Bachelor's favorite new local band) with Sun God and We March.

Happy Hour Report: House of Blues

A pal and I have recently decided to start scoping out the various tremendous happy hour deals around Cleveland. At first, this wasn't going to be a Cleveland Bachelor thing, but as I looked around the room and chatted with one of the folks in charge of the happy hour program at the first place we went, I realized just how many folks out there probably want to hear about interesting things going on at that time (especially with the crazy deals you can get).

So, I decided to get a little more systematic. From now on, when this pal and I go out to check the various happy hour deals out, I'll report back, giving you the details and the CB endorsement (or anti-endorsement). If you have suggestions or, better yet, if you are a business owner/employee that has what you think is a pretty special happy hour offer, send me a note and we'll see about putting you on our calendar. Unless, of course, you are located in the Warehouse District. In that case, I've forbidden myself from setting foot inside your establishment. Sorry, but we have to draw lines in the sand somewhere.


For the inaugural happy hour investigation, we stayed downtown and hit up the House of Blues on East 4th. I'm not much of an East 4th person, at all really. This isn't for philosophical reasons, like the aforementioned Warehouse District ban, but rather just the way things have seemed to work out. The random times I do find myself on East 4th, it is usually to kill time before a show I want to see at the House of Blues venue.

Despite being a chain, House of Blues is one of my favorite places to grab a drink and bite in town, even though I don't find myself getting in there very often. They have a world-class collection of outsider art, better than any gallery or museum I've ever been to, actually, and for a commercial kitchen, they push out some pretty great modern southern fare. I mean, this isn't Henry's at the Barn, but nor are the prices comparable.

And when it comes to happy hour, price is a major point, the primary one, really. Fortunately, the House of Blues got that memo and has structured a RIDICULOUS deal, ridiculous in its awesomeness, that is.

They call it the 1-2-3 happy hour, because domestic bottles are $1, imports are $2, and mixed drinks (well only, I believe) are $3. Better yet, the appetizer dishes, which are awesome, are all half off. In other words, bring in $10 and you can drink a few beers and split a couple of their appetizers with a friend. Among appetizers, you can't really go wrong with any of them, but I particularly dig the voodoo shrimp (which comes with a slice of their AWESOME rosemary cornbread) and the calimari, but their wings aren't half bad and their catfish nuggets (especially the zesty dipping sauce) are worth a shot.

So, while this is only the first joint we've hit on our new venture, I can tell you that you will definitely get your money's worth here and that it sets a high standard for the next few places we plan to visit.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The week ahead, 9/21-9/26

Life is busier than ever at CB HQ, and only gonna get more so in the next 10 days. We got some serious swampage at work, a move from the Heights to the 'wood to make before October 1, and a billion different awesome things to distract us in the meantime.

What does all this mean for you? It means I'm gonna quit jawboning and get straight to the meat.

Sunday, 9/20 - Today's post is gonna start with failure. For example, I'm typing it at 10:09 PM on Sunday evening, so not a lot of time to endorse various Sunday events. In any case, not a big deal, since I don't have any notes to myself about cool things going on tonight.

Monday, 9/21 - Continuing the failure meme, I have nothing to suggest for Monday, either.

Tuesday, 9/22 - Ahh - a little less failure. Check out The Dynamites at the Beachland. Fronted by soul-funk legend Charles Walker, this is gonna be a rewarding, booty-shaking good time. (Incidentally, while I was looking for a wikipedia page for Mr. Walker, I came across this one for a world famous checker player by the same name. No profile for the funk legend (oddly), but this dude's is worth reading for sure!)

Wednesday, 9/23
- Catch Bell X1 with Wild Light at the House of Blues OR see a screening of Audience of One at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Audience of One sounds brilliant - a documentary about a pentecostal minister felt he was moved by god to make a mega-million dollar sci-fi movie. I can't wait.

Thursday, 9/24
- Former Ohioans cum Austinites, Heartless Bastards, make a return to NEO with tonight's show at Oberlin. Before that, if you are the type with free afternoons, check out a screening of The Borinqueneers, a documentary about the famed all-Puerto Rican infantry regiment that fought in both world wars and Korea. It shows at CSU's Fenn Theater at 3 PM.

Friday, 9/25 - A bunch of good options tonight:

a) Dead Snow, the Norwegian Nazi zombie horror flick, shows at Cedar-Lee
b) Blue Arrow Records hosts a triple-billed show with Mother Country Madmen, Uno Lady, and Prisoners (the latter of which will be celebrating a cd release)
c) Visible Voice hosts day one of this year's Hunter S. Thompson extravaganza (a follow up to previous events celebrating the work of Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski). Starting at 7 PM, the west side's best bookstore will be showing documentaries, movies, and film clips related to the infamous gonzo journalist, while readings take place in the garden area.

d) The Cleveland Museum of Art hosts a murder mystery event, complete with beverages, tours, and DJ sets by a couple of Cleveland's finest college radio folks, including CB favorite Lawrence Daniel Caswell of WCSB 89.3 "No Ways Tired" program (which you can hear Monday mornings from 9-11 AM).
e) Local rockers and new CB fave Founding Fathers put on a FREE show at the Grog Shop, with support by local act Sun God and Athens OH's We March.
f) The much-touted Bridge Project kicks off from 4-midnight on the Detroit-Superior underpass.

Saturday, 9/26 - If you had to miss one or the other, the Bridge Project continues today from noon-midnight, and the Hunter S. Thompson party goes eastward with an event at the Barking Spider from 4-6 pm. Hit that up, and then you'll have just enough time to have dinner somewhere around University Circle before coming back to the CIA Cinematheque to catch the screening of Died Young, Stayed Pretty, an awesome and critically endorsed documentary about rock concert poster designers. Director Eileen Yaghoobian will be in attendance. Check out the promo poster designed by Cleveland's own master of the trade, John G.

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:

- 9/27 - Death/This Moment in Black History at Beachland
- 9/29 - Banned Book reading @ CSU's Schwartz Library
- 9/30 - Os Mutantes @ Beachland
- 9/30 - Amazing Baby @ Beachland
- 10/1 - Common @ HOB
- 10/1 - Mark Doty/Paul Lisicky @ CSU Poetry Center
- 10/2 - Woven Hand @ Akron Musica
- 10/2 - John Ryan opening @ William Rupnik Gallery
- 10/2 - Johnny Yanok opening @ Shoparooni

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cleveland in the Times

By now, almost every single one of you has seen the wonderful article about Cleveland in the New York Times this weekend. (FYI - The paper version will be in tomorrow's Sunday edition.)

Since it hit the NYT website, at least four friends from other cities have forwarded me the link. The most recent one to do so asked me if I had been to any of the places the article mentioned, and while I wrote him back and said, with sincerity, that I had, I did have to chuckle a bit. While they didn't bat 1000%, the writer of the article did have many of the best reference points I've personally discovered in the 2+ years I've spent living in this great city.

Let's take the places on the list one by one:

1) The Rock Hall. OK, right off the bat, I gotta admit ... I've still not been there. I guess I'm just waiting for an opportunity to go for free, though everyone I know says that chance doesn't happen very often, if ever. Dear Rock Hall marketing dude, if you want a glowing blog review, just send me an email saying you'll let me check the place out for free. I'm not a real journalist - I'll totally trade my integrity for that.

2) Lilly Chocolates - I dig this little joint, with the chocolates and the nice beer. I usually don't go in for truffles and the like, but when I'm there I can't resist the siren song of the lavender bites.

3) Visible Voice - Best bookstore on the west side and, when it comes to new books, best in all of Cleveland, period. I was just there last week and scored a copy of Mailer's The Deer Park ... for only a buck!

4) Lolita
- I'm not much for celebrity chefs, but I do like Mike Symon's style. And the happy hour here - when you can get access to the bar - is a good one, especially because of that wonderful chicken mac & cheese. Maybe by portion-size it is considered shareable, but I'm sorry - that stuff is too delicious to let anyone else get a bite. Order your own - it's happy hour!

5) Sokolowski's - Ahh, Sokolowski's. When I lived on the west side, I'd alternate between here and Melt on my stay-home weekday workdays for long solo lunches when the words weren't flowing. My boss at the time took me here for lunch my first week after moving to Cleveland and I had one of the most hilariously bad dates ever at the bar here. If I ever move away, Sokolowski's will definitely make the list of places that I simply must visit one more time during that last week of Cleveland living.

6) Velvet Tango Room
- I absolutely love this place. An island of sophistication that nestles delicately in a hidden crevice of this city of rust belt tough. I like going here for a drink probably more than anywhere else, and am happy to count the joint's owners as one of the most dear friends I've made in this city since moving here.

7) West Side Market - I love this place, too, and while I don't do much at all in the kitchen, I used to love cutting through the spacious hall en route from my apartment to the RTA station in the mornings when I lived on West 25th. Absolutely a stop on my must-see Cleveland tour for folks that come to visit.

8) Crêpe De Luxe - A fantastic little stand in the WSM and one of the few true prepared food stands therein. The crepes mentioned in the NYT post are good ones, but I gotta give a personal shout out to the nutella crepes. MMM, nutella.

9) William Busta Gallery
- OK, got me again. Not yet been here, though I've heard very nice things. I'm sorta ashamed that I've never been, considering how much I love and want to support the arts community here. This must be addressed immediately, if not sooner. Anyone ever here about events here, please holler!

10) Shaheen Modern & Contemporary Art - Again, another place I've not visited. And in this case, being totally honest, I've never actually heard of this venue. Anyone know the scoop? My radar is totally off, I think.

11) L'Albatross - Not been here either, but probably won't. Don't get me wrong - I'm all for haute cuisine, but Cleveland has too much going on in the proletarian world for me to waste time eating elsewhere. I'll save my French for when I'm in France. I have heard wonderful things, though.

12) The Beachland Ballroom - Now this place, I've totally been to and will continue coming to for as long as they'll let me. I live down the block, I've probably been in that building more than any other building in the city other than my various apartments and my office. This is my favorite place to see a band play anywhere in the country and I've made a lot of pals in and around this joint. A solid anchor to a part of the city I call home.

13) This Moment In Black History
- Speaking of Beachland-related pals, one of the pals I've made in this town is a member of this band. I met him one night when he was DJing a set and was kind enough to indulge my request for a Teddy Pendergrass jam. Since then, I'd put this dude and the VTR pal mentioned previously down as the two fellas that have taught me the most about this city I love living in. And, of course, the band rocks. Be sure to check them out when the open for Detroit proto-punkers Death next weekend. That, literally, is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you.

14) This Way Out Vintage - Another place I love to hit when I'm in the Beachland. Dave P. might be the most effortlessly cool person I've ever met, and I've been stylin' my most recent score from there, this circa-1970 awesome Cleveland Athletic Club blazer. It's totally perfect.

15) Tommy's
- Tommy's on Coventry. 'Nuff said. Great milkshakes. Great for vegans and such. I'm not one, but I'm glad for it.

16) Mac's Backs - The best bookstore on the east side of Cleveland and, when you consider used books, the best overall. I love this place, and Suzanne there was the very first person to remember my name. When you are new to a city and don't know a soul, you notice the first time you walk into a store and someone says hello and calls you by your name. Since then, she's only been cooler and sweeter every week, and I always know that when I pop in there to satisfy a book craving, I'm gonna get a great chat and some impossibly accurate personal recommendations. This place makes me happy like few other businesses I've ever been to before.

17) University Circle (especially Severance Hall, the CIA Cinematheque, the CMA, and Lakeview Cemetary)
- Cultural jewels, all of them. I've not been to Severance, and only to Lakeview and the CMA sporadically, though I appreciate them immensely. The CIA Cinematheque, however, now that's another story. I think ever person in Cleveland should go to at least one film a year there. It doesn't have to be some obscure French new wave flick or some heavy Asian import - the dudes here play lots of accessible stuff. I can't tell you how glad I am that this place exists and that they do such a wonderful job of programming. Now if only we could get some new seats in there ...

So, yes, I've been to a few of these places. And, if you are reading this but not from here, come visit! I'll take you there myself!

For the rest of you, what do you think they missed?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Smell of the Week

Awesome deal at House of Blues

Anyone who even semi-regularly reads this blog knows that I'm a sucker for local industry. Whether we are talking grocery stores, restaurants, or rock clubs - I like to spend my money on and at Cleveland institutions.

Recently, though, the folks at House of Blues have been doing a pretty good job winning my affection with the various recession-friendly plans they've developed for music fans in these tough times. Yeah, they are still a business and the deals are designed to get folks in the door, not for charity, but still ... at least they are giving hook-ups to the NEO community, right?

The last one I was aware of was no service fee days where you could buy your ticket for the ticket price only, with the other crap fees that sometimes wind up being almost as much as the entertainment cost itself.

This time, they've gone a step farther and have created a deal I just might take them up on myself. They call it the Live Nation Club Passport and, basically, for $50 you get free tickets to any and all shows for the rest of the year. (Note: This doesn't mean one show, this means you can go to as many shows as you want for the remainder of 2009.) Pretty sweet, huh?

No fees, but the shows must still have tickets available (i.e., buying the passport won't get you in if there aren't tickets.)

Here’s how it works. Beginning today concert fans go to and purchase a Club Passport. A list of participating shows will be immediately available. Every Monday thereafter, Passport holders log on to or follow Live Nation on Facebook or Twitter to see the list of participating club shows in their city and to reserve their ticket. From here, Club Passport holders just bring their Live Nation Club Passport number and photo I.D. to the House of Blues box office and get right in, no extra charges, no hassles.

The Live Nation Club Passport is valid for the following participating shows at the House of Blues, and more shows will be added as the weeks tick off the calendar.

9/18 - Mega 80's
9/22 - Down
9/23 - Bell X1
9/24 - Stryper
9/25 - Super Diamond
9/26 - Mute Math
9/29 - All That Remains
9/30 - KMFDM
10/1 - Common
10/3 - Mat Kearney
10/6 - Westbound Train
10/7 - Kate Voegele
10/11 - moe.
10/14 - Blackmore's Night
10/16 - Mars Volta
10/18 - GWAR
10/19 - Pitbull
10/21 - The Damned
10/22 - Eric Church
10/27 - The Subjects & Bad Veins
10/28 - Sean Kingston
10/30 - Frontiers
11/7 - Wish You Were Here
11/10 - Skinny Puppy
11/17 - Saving Abel
11/27 - Red Wanting Blue

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A new sibling for Ellie

I've been thinking about getting a companion for Smelly Ellie Mae for a little while now. Not sure what I'd like. Maybe a kitten. Maybe a non-puppy rescue dog. Maybe both.

But thanks to this press release, I'm thinking of going in a new direction. I think I'd like to have a red panda baby. Pandas can live in shitty Collinwood townhouses, right?

How much does bamboo cost?

Album of the Week: The Modern Electric

When I first moved to Cleveland, one of the things I consciously did was spend a lot of time getting to know the local indie scene. For those of you who don't live here (or too cynical to enjoy what we have here), you should know this: Cleveland has a rich and pretty grand scene. Sure, we aren't Portland or Athens or Brooklyn, but we do have some pretty solid talent and creativity twisting around the county.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on who was good in this town and why. I learned recently that my mastery of the scene was woefully incomplete. Here's how ...

As some of you know, I recently started writing weekly (sometimes more) reviews for Citizen Dick. This has been a total blast and one of the smartest decisions I've made in a while (though, surprisingly, there are very few entries in the smart ideas CB has had in 2009 derby). The guys there are all cool and while all of us love indie rock, we do so in such specifically different ways that each of the dudes always has a good tip for me.

Kevin, one of the founding honchos, mentioned that I should take a listen to The Modern Electric once, and then another time, as I was pulling a late night writing session for work and we were trading emails, he suggested it again. This time I pulled it up in my itunes on my computer, and fell immediately in love. Three listens of the album later, and countless repeat and replays of "David Bowie (Save Us All)" I decided to call up the band's myspace page and see where they were from and when they'd be coming through Cleveland on a summer tour.

You should've seen my face - pure, unadulterated, toddler joy - when I realized they were from Cleveland. I probably did a triple-take, making sure my eyes were working.

I mean, how could a band that good be from Clevo without me having heard of them. I told this to Kevin the next day, and he laughed and said something like, "Dude, you saw them live. They opened for Cotton Jones the night of the Citizen Dick-sponsored in-store!"

That further adds to the amazingness of this story. I saw a band live, they lived in my city, all this went down under my nose and literally right in front of my face, and it wasn't until I took a random listen, thinking they were from somewhere, anywhere, else.

I told you the whole "how I discovered a band that actually came from my town" story so you'd know this isn't just mere Cleveland boosterism, but rather a band I'd write about if they were from Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, or (gasp) Los Angeles. Clearly, I'm drawn to the album for what it is, not because of where it came from.

So what is it?

Well, this is the kind of band that could easily be Top 40, if the execs at Clear Channel didn't have such bad taste and mortgaged souls. The Modern Electric brings to bear a 21st Century hipster Neil Diamond meets Billy Joel vibe with a sense of irony that is complementary rather than all-consuming. Frequently, though not exclusively, piano-centered, I love the piano work, melodic and sway-worthy. Simply stated, Garrett Komyati has some serious chops and a bright future. It wouldn't take a lot to convince me that this album was actually the soundtrack to a musical or hip new indie comedy. (Actually, the band's work is featured on a recent regional film production.) The Modern Electric is a band unafraid to write pop songs, songs where there isn't a lot of fancy stuff going on, yet the members of the band can all play their instruments.

So, you have a band that plays good, fun, smart music that is straightforward and accessible, rather than detached or cooler-than-thou. In our era, such earnestness might make them a novelty, but whatever. I dig novelty. It's fucking novel. And that's a good thing.

The album begins on a good note on "Where I Belong," with gentle electric guitar strumming for several bars before a single finger piano melody comes in. Eventually the full band comes in, with the vocals singing "Won't you take me with you if you gotta leave." The rest of the song features the singer/narrator trying to sell this plan, much like a more melodic Obama and the public option, though the singer shows far more emotion toward the end, as he repeats that opening phrase with desperation and duress, than our president ever does.

After the opener, the band goes immediately to awesome - these dudes don't believe in saving the best track for 3 or anything else. "David Bowie" is the catchiest, smartest, meta-pop song I've heard in forever. It'll easily be one of my favorite songs of this whole year. It is so good, you'd think Suckers wrote it. This is such a great tune, with completely fantastic lyrical and vocal references - it's as if David Bowie himself devised a sonic auto-hagiography. Listen to this once, and you'll spend much of the next week singing "Da-da-da-David, David Bowie."

Such moments of memorable lyrics don't stop there. On "Mistakes," Komyati croons "what am I doing wrong girl" in an unforgettable way, while on "Ghost," a stellar track that merges 70s minor-chord pop with heat and fuzz (think a little bit of Spoon, a little bit of Jack White), you'll lose your mind when you hear him sing with exasperation and shock, "what kills me the most, you're not even a ghost."

The Modern Electric brings the full complement to the table, er, stage, though, and just as I could list a bunch of digable lyrical references, the instrumentals are tight, too. I'm not sure what instrument is being used (keyboard or keytar with theremin effects, perhaps?), but the sound on "As Sharp As Knives" is ethereal and earthy and artificial in a nice way. And how in the hell do you make a sound that earns those three adjectives all at once?

Conceptualization is maybe the band's greatest strength, though. These guys all appear to be pretty young, which surprised me after listening to the two-track musical couplet, "Vanity Suite." (Part A is dubbed "One By One, the Lights Burn Out" while Part B is sub-titled "Divine, Starving, and Sleepless.") Part A is a beautiful instrumental interlude playing underneath dialogue between jilted lovers from a 1953 film (starring and directed by Ida Lupino) called The Bigamist that is so compelling it went straight to the top of my netflix queue once I learned the film's name. (The most compelling marriage between the band's soundtracking and the dialogue is when the spurned woman puts her foot down: "just leave me alone" and "get out," and the man (indeed, the bigamist), after protesting, does as he is told. Part B is a more traditional ballad, still retaining chord and theme similarities from Part A, especially during the ending reprise. The pairing and the scoring and the thought behind this comes from a more mature place than you'd expect from fellas as young as these are, but there you have it.

Actually, "Vanity Suite" could really be a three-part musical essay, given how easily the conceptualization segues into "Love and Misery." The solo guitar noodling is great in this song, but the best part is how I can close my life (yes, sometimes when driving) and try to imagine who the narrator was referring to in the previous song when singing about someone never being replaced. This album is most likely not a concept album, though I'd like it to be.

One of the biggest draws of this band for me is the piano. I mentioned this before, but since I'm such a sucker for piano-driven indie pop and rock, I'll hammer the point home. Although some songs begin as if inspired by Ben Folds ("The Anti-Sing Along"), Billy Joel is a more apt comparison. (And for all of you thinking that's uncool, you can go fuck yourselves right now. I'm not talking River of Dreams Billy Joel, I'm talking Piano Man, but either way Long Island's hometown hero torches your Grizzly Bears and Deerhunters every day of the week, every month of the year, every decade of the century.)

Other than "David Bowie," "The Anti-Sing Along" has to be this album's hit track. I don't give a shit about the title - this is a good song to sing along to, though that's likely the point. "Filming our Favorite Lies" has Billy Joel all over it (namely The Stranger era work, especially Movin' Out in the syncopation). Nonetheless, among the piano-driven tunes, "The Anti-Sing Along" and "Filming our Favorite Lies" are wonderful, but the beauty of "London Loves Paris, 1988" is unsurpassed on this album.

"London Loves Paris, 1988" closes out the album perfectly, with grace and inspiration and power (as well as discernible and delightful chord references to the Vanity Suite songs). It leaves me as happy about the fact that I can listen to the album all over again whenever I want to almost as much as I'm stoked about the fact that, as fellow Clevelanders, I can look forward to seeing these dudes play around town quite often from here on out. Maybe not whenever I want, but close enough.

Make sure you catch The Modern Electric next time you get a chance. If your appetite has already been whipped into a frenzy, fear not: tomorrow they'll be playing in studio on WRUW (91.1). Check their website out here for more details.

CB's Browns Watch - Reviewing Week 1

I haven't written about the Browns since the first week of training camp, and for that I apologize.

I also apologize because I just don't have a ton of time to do so today, but I don't want to let yet another week slip by - especially after Game 1 - without offering some commentary.

So, here are my pearls of wisdom regarding week 1:

1) Quinn sucked. Don't look at his final statistics, which were average, at best. He managed to get back to average with a bunch of garbage yardage and a meaningless touchdown at the end when the game was already well over. Look at the third quarter and the general lethargy of the whole first half and you'll see the Brady Quinn you have forever. This is who this dude is, a mediocre quarterback without game-changing skills. DA may be a little unpredictable, but when he's on, he is freaking on (assuming Braylon isn't dropping everything in his vicinity), and when he's off he's about like Quinn on every other day. With DA at the helm, you'll win some games thanks to crazy bombs and lose some because of ill-timed interceptions, but you'll always have a full-field threat. With Quinn, we'll just lose and do so in boring fashion.

2) We are still a player away from excellence at virtually every single position on the field, with maybe the exception of the offensive line. We need a stud at every tier of the defense, and until then, playing against any team just above average on offense is going to be a major challenge. We gave up a bunch of points to a good team with a struggling (and old, and douchey) quarterback, and there are a whole lot more reasons than just the fact that their running back is fucking tremendous (though that's a very good reason). It'll take some time to figure out what exactly we need at each position, but for right now I'll say this: there is no one great on the field yet and there needs to be at least 3 great players if we want to be a good team.

3) Even though Braylon was, in my opinion, the biggest reason for DAs fall from grace last year, he ain't making life much easier on Quinn. I (stupidly) listened to a lot of post-game radio coverage and was struck as much by the quasi-racism of the commentary as I was the fact that hardly anyone blamed Quinn for miscues. We all know where I'm gonna put the blame, so why even bother. So how about this, instead of saying Right Wing Brady and Edwards have "chemistry issues" let's just say that Braylon, hands-problems and all, is under-utilized in any offense that uses Quinn's weak arm. Between the weak arm and the conservative play-calling, it makes no sense to have Braylon on the field - throw Robiskie or one of the other new guys on there in Braylon's role if that's the offense and QB we are going with. Anything else is just a waste of everybody's effort.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Show Review: 9/14 @ Beachland Tavern: A Hawk and a Hacksaw

The Beachland Tavern was pretty packed last night, especially considering it was a Monday. I'll admit being surprised by this, particularly in light of the disagreement I'd had with another friend the day before about how attendance for last night's A Hawk and a Hacksaw show would be. She said it would be busy, I said it wouldn't be. After all, The Horse's Ha show was on a similar night and it was totally dead, and that these two bands ought to be attracting the same kind of crowd. The same exact crowd. She said it would be busy and that while she didn't know The Horse's Ha, she did say that A Hawk and a Hacksaw had opened for Andrew Bird a while before and that would prove the difference. I didn't think that would be the case.

I was wrong.

I had forgotten the hipster factor.

The crowd was thick with them last night, raising the temperature of the room at least 10 degrees as well as that terrible trend of indignance I do my best to keep bottled up but don't always succeed at restraining.

Jeremy Barnes and his fellow performers did their thing and they did it well. Barnes is a proficient accordian player, and Heather Trost is even better on the strings. My favorite dude in the band was the tuba player, though, perhaps because in my own brass band days I was pretty handy with that instrument myself. The foursome (which included a trumpet player) played hard and inspired and with sincerity. The sound was not gimmicky in the least - you can tell that Barnes breathes and lives for the culture of this part of the world and respects it deeply. I like that and was happy to see it come out in their performance. It all went so well and so real, in fact, that had you closed your eyes, you'd have been able to convince yourself this was actually a Bulgarian/Turkish/Hungarian folk group on some State Department sponsored cultural exchange.

Only it wasn't. It was a bunch of white folks from the USA playing their best (and laudable) interpretation of that music. That's fine - nothing necessarily imperialistic or opportunistic there, and as noted above, they do a pretty good job of paying homage to their sound's origin. But, take away the Neutral Milk Hotel cred and the frontman's slashing cop 'stache, and as I perhaps too cynically said to my pal at the show, there guys would be a band marching in a small-town Gypsy Day parade. And there wouldn't have been a soul in the room.

What struck me as a bit imperialistic and opportunistic and definitely gimmicky was the audience. Decked out in their thrift store flannel finest, what are the odds that these same folks would've attended the aforementioned hypothetical State Department tour? None. They certainly wouldn't be pulling the dick move like the dipshit from one of the opening bands, the chubby dude with the bad hair, all drunk and doing his mocking version of a generic Eastern European folk dance based on something they hazily remembered from a childhood viewing of Fiddler on the Roof. (Speaking of which, can I give a shout-out to Topol? That dude seriously rules. He was one of my father's heroes when I was a small child and I have fond afternoons of watching him on video tapes on sluggish Sunday afternoons.)

RIP, Cooler

There has been a lot of death this year, hasn't there? Probably no more than usual, but for whatever reason, celebrity deaths seem to be the recurring top story on the news.

Some of these have really bummed me out, some not at all, but the one that disappointed me the most was when I heard about Patrick Swayze's passing last night.

I'm not gonna eulogize the dude - didn't know him and didn't know much of his work after the mid-90s. I'll just say that some of my favorite movies of all time - Road House, Point Break, and Red Dawn - were all made better by him being in them.

Instead, feast your eyes on this clip from my favorite Swayze role. I really did like that guy as an actor - his strange blend of intellect, strength, and an agility as feline as it was feminine.

Monday, September 14, 2009

That Summertime Sound - Commentary and Giveaway!

Long time readers will know that I have three loves: buffalo wings, indie rock, and reading. Not only does this combination make me an incredibly sought after bachelor on the Cleveland market, it also turns the task of making me happy into a pretty predictable one. That is, give me a plate (or, um, bucket) of buffalo wings and a novel about indie rock and you'll get two things: greasy, stained pages and a smiling CB.

Matthew Specktor's new novel, That Summertime Sound, is the latest indie rock related book to cross my desk and for those of you who love the same sorts of things in life that I do, you have reason to be excited. Not only that, Specktor roots his hip band name-dropping dialogue within a plot that features heavily the Ohio rock scene (particularly in Columbus) of the 1980s.

If you were around then, or dig anything that shamelessly offers hat-tips to bands lke The Feelies, Husker Du, Pere Ubu, and Uriah Heep, this book is for you. That Summertime Sound is a coming-of-age story of a young man from Los Angeles, educated at an elite east coast prep school, and more pumped up about spending a summer in the rust belt than anyone ever probably ought to be. Specktor writes nineteen-year-old pseudo-intellectual hipsters well (very, very well), for good and ill, and for every hackneyed reference Balzac ("Felice stood up to use the bathroom and I saw as I hadn't earlier the battered paperback copy of Lost Illusions shoved in her back pocket."), there are realistic arguments over this seminal band or that one, tales of tales to the thrift store, and the ever-present gnawing tension between being who you are and who you want others to think you are. All with a relatively fantastic literary soundtrack.

I'm not the only one saying good things about this book, either. Specktor's debut novel has already garnered comparisons to writers as different and lauded as Jim Thompson and Kazuo Ishiguro, and one of this blog's favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem, bestowed upon the book the following choice jacket love:

Matthew Specktor's That Summertime Sound isn't so much a book as it is a door, hinged in memory, and swinging wide to every tenderhearted throb of lust and longing and precocious regret still there where you left it, at the periphery of adulthood. How does the novel perform on this trick? By prose as lucid and classical as Graham Greene's in The End of the Affair, yet saturated in detail such that if you'd never had the luck to outgrow an '80s teenage dream in Columbus, Ohio, you'll feel you had after reading it."

Got you interested yet? Good, because you can get a copy of That Summertime Sound pretty easily, whether by ordering it from your favorite local bookstore (as always, I endorse Mac's Backs on the east side and Visible Voice on the west) or through amazon at this link here.

To further sweeten the pot, I have an extra copy of That Summertime Sound to give away to one lucky blog reader. Rather than do something like first come, first served, I figured I'd make this giveaway into something a little more fun (for me) and beneficial (again, for me). So, anyone interested in getting a complimentary copy of this book should either comment on this post or email me at clevelandbachelor AT with the following: their name and their own favorite book (preferably fiction) that deals with music. Tell me why you like that one (or why you think I might like it). The prize goes to the best recommendation I receive.

Big News at Blue Arrow!

If hosting the free Greg Ginn (founder of Black Flag and SST Records) in-store this Tuesday wasn't enough, Blue Arrow Pete and Debbie have another big announcement for fans of music in the 216. I'll leave it to tell you themselves, as they sent me the following blurb in an email earlier today:

BLUE ARROW RECORDS is honored to welcome our first overseas deejay, all the way from Manchester UK, "Big Daddy" George Mahood. Though known in recent years as the grand poobah at Concourse Records (one of the best on-line shops on the planet for elusive soul, funk, reggae and hip-hop vinyl, Mr. Mahood earned his reputation years earlier as editor-in-chief of the late great BIG DADDY magazine and GRAND SLAM magazine. Both BIG DADDY and GRAND SLAM fervently covered the funk and soul 45 explosion at its most "Brainfreeze" frenetic era.

Thursday, September 17th. Spinning begins at 7 PM. 16001 WATERLOO ROAD. Don't miss this big event!! As I said, we are honored to have Mr. Mahood visit our shop.........

Hope to see you,
Pete and Debbie

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Show Review: 9/12 @ Beachland Tavern: Ramona Falls

Last night was one of those nights I really wanted to stay home. I took a mid-evening nap and woke sweaty and groggy about 8:15 PM. Only one thing would've made me choose to get up rather than flip the pillow over to find the cool side and return to slumberland: a show at my favorite venue (the Beachland Tavern) featuring the man responsible for the best album I've heard this year (Brent Knopf).

So, I got up, got dressed, walked the dog, and headed to Waterloo Road, though not without a few muttered curses.

I should've known all along that making the tired drive over was the smartest thing I could've done. I had a great time, both seeing Ramona Falls perform and catching up with friends at Low Life Gallery's latest spectacular opening.

I rolled in to the tavern just in time to hear the last 3-4 songs from The Modern Electric's set. Unfortunately, I missed hearing either of my favorite two tracks from their recent wonderful self-titled debut, "David Bowie (Save Us All)" and "The Anti-Sing Along." What I did get to hear was grand, though. I missed the middle band, Other Girls, in order to catch the exhibit opening down the block, which is disappointing considering how much I like tracks like "Gem City" and "Last Day" from their own recent album, Perfect Cities.

In a different way, though, it was well worth it. I've considered the Waterloo Road stretch of Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood home for quite some time now, even though my address won't officially reflect that feeling until week after next, and while I was chatting with some friends and very soon to be neighbors, Brent Knopf walked over from the Beachland to check out the exhibit himself. I'd told him about it only several minutes before and when he walked up, it gave me an opportunity to see my neighborhood through his eyes. I introduced him to the fellow residents, folks that do graphics for rock clubs, shoot photos for NASA, and sit at the helm at the local NPR affiliate and best indie bookstore in the city, and was able to point out my favorite spots on the block, the Slovenian sausage store, the vintage toy shop, the record store with the custom designed album cover floor, the old man bar down the block and the mega-gallery building across the street. I'm sure I came off like an obnoxious Waterloo Welcome Wagon, but it was gratifying to hear Knopf give a shout out to the neighborhood and how much cool stuff was going on a short time later as he greeted the Beachland audience.

The show itself was wonderful (as if it could have ever been anything but, given the brilliance of the recent Intuit album). The performance wasn't terribly long and there weren't any set-list surprises (they played every one of the 11 tracks on Intuit, in different order from how they appear on the record, and nothing else), but there was something so relaxed yet energetic in how they played and interacted with one another.

At one point during the show, temporarily lost in the music (I think it might've been during "Salt Sack"), I decided that Knopf is the Barack Obama of indie rock. One of the things I love about our president is how smart he is, how when he speaks you see the wheels turning inside and turning in ways and at speeds that most of us couldn't ever compare with. Knopf is the same way. When he's performing, he's fully into it, but you can see his mind working as the expressions on his face change, following the beat of something happening in his brain. Unlike Obama, his gears are turning to music, not wonky policy details, though Knopf has a penchant for the sciences, too. (Check out a recent Q&A I did with him for more evidence of this.) You should've seen his eyes light up when I introduced my friend who worked at NASA!

The show began with my favorite track on Intuit, "Diamond Shovel," with Knopf appearing solo on stage, strapped into a beautiful all black guitar. I'd meant to ask him the details on this piece of equipment but forgot. My bad. Sorry. After the song ended and his shout out to Cleveland and the block that surrounded the Beachland, the rest of the band joined him onstage.

Knopf has assembled a fearsome trio of musicians to accompany him on this tour, including his Menomena bandmate Danny Saim on bass, guitarist Matt Sheehy, and drummer Paul Alcott. The chops on each one of these guys are first rate, but Alcott particularly made an impression on me. A tremendous percussionist, he made his presence felt right off the bat with the first full-band song of the set, "Russia," and continued to impress throughout, as much by his instrumental skills as his frenetic Sideshow Bob appearance and ADHD-esque inability to sit down for more than a minute or two at a time. Alcott also seems to be the funnyman of the group (though Seim might be a rival for this designation), publicly apologizing after "Russia" for dropping his stick, saying "Sorry about dropping a stick. I'm not gonna do that again. That was a one time thing." All three sentences were enunciated in such an earnest and strange way, I couldn't repeat them aloud as he originally delivered them to save my life.

Following Alcott's apology, the band dove right in to a rollicking version of "I Say Fever." For a gentle soul, Brent Knopf can fucking rock, and this song demonstrated that perfectly. Knopf forgot some of the lyrics at first and stood silently for a few lines while the band plugged ahead. He joined them a moment or so later and the rest of the song went off without a hitch.

I originally wasn't going to draw attention to the lyrical ball-dropping - everyone makes mistakes - but Knopf decided to do so himself, explaining after the song ended that he had a theory about what had just happened. Specifically, it was something a lot like in the film Back to the Future, where people gradually start to disappear as the history that preceded their existence changed. Knopf linked the filmic reference to the forgotten lyrics by noting that the original feelings that had motivated the writing of "I Say Fever" had faded over the years, and that perhaps his memory of the lyrics was also fading, much like the characters in the film. As he started to further elaborate, trying to bring together the two otherwise disparate phenomena, Seim uttered into the microphone behind Knopf, "Get back in the DeLorean dude. Let's do this. Knopf stopped his effort to reconcile the references immediately, and the band launched in to "The Darkest Day."

After that song and a delightful version of "Bellyfulla," Knopf performed the brief instrumental interlude from the album ("Boy Ant"), and Seim again stepped to the mic, noting that this song was written for "the girls that didn't break Brent's heart ... that's why there aren't any lyrics."

A chuckle later and the group was banging out "Going Once, Going Twice," after which guitarist Sheehy announced he wasn't going to be using his drink tickets and laid them upon the amp case in front of him for anyone who wanted them to pick up. I don't remember that anyone ever took him up on the offer, perhaps because of some ill-placed Rust Belt alienation resulting from Sheehy's Schlitz Beer dialogue. Sheehy paid for the shtick momentarily, though, as the band started "Salt Sack" and it took him a few moments and Alcott's frantic waving across the stage before he realized his guitar wasn't plugged in. (Either he'd switched without re-plugging or it had come detached as he leaned forward to lay down the drink tix.)

He got things back in order and the band finished the tune up, going in to "Always Right," the point in the evening where Knopf seemed most into his vocals. I'd love to ask him the back story of that song some day and see if it matches the intensity of his effort on the song's performance. Knopf seems like a dude that exudes sincerity, and my hunch is that he was thinking about whatever it was the motivated the song's creation in the first place.

Afterwards, before announcing that the band had two songs left to play, he acknowledged that the slight polka tinge the audience might've heard in "Always Right" was indeed strategic, an effort they'd made to siphon off some of the energy in the venue's other room, where a Detroit and Toledo based polka troupe was playing its own homage to Pink Floyd, titled appropriately Polka Floyd.

The band then played its final two songs, my two other favorite tracks off Intuit, "Clover" (which ended with a wonderful overlapping vocals effect) and "Melectric." I said a quick goodbye to the folks in the room I knew, shook Knopf's hand and congratulated him on a show well performed as he made his way over to the merch table, and hit the road, smiling from the show as well as in anticipation of the cool side of the pillow that now awaited me.

Ramona Falls at Beachland Tavern, 9/12/09:

1) Diamond Shovel
2) Russia
3) I Say Fever
4) The Darkest Day
5) Bellyfulla
6) Boy Ant
7) Going Once, Going Twice
8) Salt Sack
9) Always Right
10) Clover
11) Melectric