Saturday, October 31, 2009

The timing seems fitting

Around noon today, Cleveland PD arrested what might be the Plum City's biggest serial killer since the Torso Murderer in the 1930s. (Someone correct me if I'm missing someone.)

Obviously this is a horrific and tragic event and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

It is also a news story that promises to unveil new (and likely disgusting) details for the foreseeable future. For now, here is the original story and here is the update about today's arrest.

Happy Halloween!

I'm not a huge Halloween enthusiast. I mean, I don't hate it, I just don't get excited. I usually don't do the costume thing, but every so often I will if the situation mandates it.

This Halloween I did all my entertainment stuff the night before. Last night's annual Beachland Ballroom cover band bash was a blast - lots of time to chat with plenty of pals and drink a beer or two too many. Fortunately, now that I'm a Waterloo resident, I didn't have to challenge Johnny Law by driving home - just a quick jaunt down the block and I was back home to Casa Bachelor.

I've been dipping my toe in Halloween festivities all week, though. The other day, I posted this track on Citizen Dick from a new Youngstown band, and the other day my friend and I watched Otto, or Up with Dead People.

I'll say this about Otto ... it is a deeply funny movie, and satirizes things about film that I don't even know about. For a split second, I was half tempted to go get an MFA in film studies just so I could go back and re-watch the movie and get all the inside jokes.

Except then I'd have to re-watch the movie, which while funny was even more disturbing. Cookbook said that there was a scene in it that was the grossest she'd ever seen. When I saw it, I immediately agreed. If anything, "grossest I'd ever seen" is too polite a way to describe the (literal) abdomen-fucking moment.

Far more too my tastes was the zombie book I read this week, American Desert, which offers bite-sized (pun unintended) hilarious jabs at institutions from right-wing religious extremism to the myopia of academic life to the insurance industry to the greatest zombie of all (aka Jesus), while describing the plight of a man who, en route to commit suicide, gets decapitated in a fatal car accident and, then, three days later reanimates (sans all vital signs and, eventually, organs) and has to assimilate back into the land of the mostly living.

Now, on the day of the big event, I'm a little Halloweened out and probably will stay in (though a visit down the block to catch Lawrence Daniel Caswell DJ may motivate me off the couch later on). So, while the rest of you are out being spooky and such, have fun, be safe, and tip one back for the Bachelor.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #14: Lawrence Daniel Caswell

The first time I ever met Lawrence Daniel Caswell, he was DJing a soul music night in the Beachland Tavern. He permanently made my cool list when he agreed to play a Teddy Pendergrass jam.

Some time later, I saw him DJ there again, and he again agreed to play some Teddy P. We spoke at length about the old Philly soul scene and he told me about the soul show he hosts on WCSB (89.3 on Monday mornings from 9 AM to 11 AM). Over time, as I got to know Lawrence, I realized this dude is into just about everything that is cool in Cleveland. He co-hosts monthly crazy film nights, works at one of the two best bookstores in the city (Visible Voice in Tremont), plays in who knows how many bands, including the awesomely loud heavy punk band This Moment in Black History, and is perhaps the single greatest ambassador of my new neighborhood, his beloved Sausage District, Collinwood. If indeed there is or ever will be a Cleveland renaissance, Caswell is our da Vinci.

(Photo by Bridget Caswell)

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I’ve lived in the Greater Cleveland area all my life. 34 years. I was born at the now demolished Mt. Sinai Hospital in University Circle. I’ve lived in the city proper for 7 years, but I grew up in Bedford Heights and Warrensville Heights. I’ve also lived in Cleveland Heights (Coventry, Cedar-Fairmount), on St. Clair (on E. 61st, E.72nd Streets), and I did a brief stint in Ohio City (at Bridge & W.28th, before the Dave’s went up). I’m an Eastsider though, and that’s real life. Currently, I live with my wife on the shores of the Sausage District in the Beulah Park neighborhood of Collinwood, where I plan to stay for as long as I am in this city. It’s the best neighborhood in my favorite city.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

This question is difficult, as I have both innumerable fantastic memories of this city and a chronically shitty memory. And, I’ve never been good at playing favorites. Can I pass on this one for the moment? In exchange, I promise to list some significant Cleveland memories in the comments of this post? Might even be good for me.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

Cleveland is a city of indeterminate and unabated potential manifested intermittently in brief, but intense bursts. When you love such a city, as I do, the promise of that potential sits at the heart of your attraction. Relationships based on a one-sided attraction to intense, but infrequently manifested potential must surely tend towards the passionate, painful and demoralizing. Long term devotion to such a relationship might even produce a kind of bitter resolve that stubbornly agitates for realized potential, accepting enough brief manifestations to get through the day, while ultimately suspecting that all is lost. It might also make you a bit of an asshole.

Maybe this what non-Clevelanders mean when they talk about a “Cleveland attitude.” If it is, then I’ve got one.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

I’m not one for idealized fantasies, and I don’t celebrate my birthday. A peaceful day in the city, spent well-fed and in good company, is all I could wish for. It happens often enough that I don’t need to wish. I just wait.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

When friends come into town I always suggest driving around the city aimlessly. Next to riding the RTA all day (which I advise!), it’s the best way to see and understand the city.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

An economy, preferably with another major university in tow and a rewarding, fair-salaried job just for me.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Increase immigration to the city, domestic and foreign. Stop with the giant development projects and create ways for small businesses, artists and other motivated people to affordably and creatively utilize the empty and abandoned real estate in key neighborhoods throughout the city. We are makers in this city - we have ideas. We just need the opportunity to manifest them.

Oh, and keep your fucking hands off our money.

That’s more than one thing. But then, undivided attention ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

To meet Lawrence and treat your ears to some top-shelf vintage soul music, check out Saturday night's Wiley & the Checkmates show at the Beachland. That's right, Halloween night will be the first-ever incarnation of what will hopefully become a new Waterloo tradition, the Halloween BOO-ga-loo. (Get it?) Lawrence will be running the wheels of steel along with his partner in spinning, DJ Mr Fishtruck, after Wiley & co get done with their portion of the show. Doors are at 8:30, show starts at 9, tickets are $8, but if you don a costume, you'll only have to cough up $5. See you there.

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, and Paulius Nasvytis.

Smell of the week

Monday, October 26, 2009

CB Q/A #20: Nicole Atkins

It is never a smart move to make bold declarations, especially on a blog, but I have a lot of confidence in the following:

Nicole Atkins has the best haircut in indie rock today.

She's also a heckuva song-writer and performer but, I'll be honest, it was the haircut that first snagged my attention. Probably some publicist sent along an email with a file photo, not knowing anything would come of it, but when I opened that particular email, I thought, "I want to hear that gal's music." And so I did. And it was grand.

And now we get to see her play the coolest room in town, the Beachland Tavern, on Monday night! Can you think of a better way to begin the week? At least a way that doesn't involve a Browns victory?

I can't.

Which, of course, is why I expect all of you to be there to check this out. And ladies, when you go back to the merch table to check out the albums and such, ask Nicole where she got that haircut. I totally love it.

1) When I listen to “The Way It Is” I keep thinking about old French torch singers. Am I totally off base in thinking that’s an influence? What does influence you? Any certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.?

That kind of music was never an influence to me when I made the record, but it might be now. People kept coming up to merch table and saying I sounded like Edith Piaf, so I took a listen and got hooked. Now I’d say it probably does influence me, but it never became an influence until after the fact.

I do have a lot of other influences, though. Vocally, there is Roy Orbison, Marvin Gaye, Cass Elliot, Jay Walker & the Americans, Arthur Lee & Love, Scott Walker’s Brecht arrangements.

As far as music, lately I’ve been obsessed with Echo & the Bunnyman. They are all I’ve been listening to lately.

2) Personally, I think geography ends up being important in an artist’s work. You are from Jersey, a place that often has as much of a negative cliché reputation as Cleveland (i.e., you guys have the Sopranos, we have burning rivers). To what extent do you think a sense of place has affected you as an artist and performer?

I’m hugely affected. Most people think of Jersey as industrial and gross, but right now while we are doing this interview I’m sitting on my parent’s patio looking at the river and bird sanctuary. There is a lot of solitude and beauty here, in the winter especially.

3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour or recording session, what advice would you give him/her?

It’s funny you ask me about that because I’m actually meeting with a 19 year old kid today to talk about that exact kind of thing. I would say play as many gigs as you can, as many open mics as you can, and find out who is in your local scene that you admire and start hanging out. Just immerse yourself.

And work hard. Write more songs, play more shows rather than drink more beers and go to the bar.

4) I love your rendition of “Ben” and the old Church song (“Under the Milky Way Tonight”) – they both really take me back to my youth. How do you go about choosing which songs you cover and are there any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

Oh man. It has to be a song I feel like every time I hear it, I’ll listen to on repeat a billion times, wish that I wrote it, and feel like I could live inside of it. I think covers are great to do, a great way of integrating new fan groups and also a way of adopting elements of other styles you like but don’t have into my stuff.

My favorite cover to play is “Pissing in a River” by Patti Smith. I also love “Whisky Tango” by Can, though I can’t quite figure out the lyrics and can’t find them online. Others that would be great are “And it Spread” by the Avett Brothers and a new Brendan Benson song called “Go Nowhere.”

5) What’s next?

There will be a new record hopefully in June – we are still working out who we are gonna put it out with – that part is a big test of patience.

6) Any memorable Cleveland experiences?

Oh yeah – I love playing the Beachland Ballroom because they make us meatloaf. They always cook us these super mom dinners, which is great compared to most of the stuff you eat when you are on the road. I also love the backstage entrance to the cool vintage store (This Way Out) in the basement. And were there for the Shoparooni opening party a couple years ago – that was a lot of fun to go down to.

7) If you could tell folks in Cleveland anything about you or your music, what would it be?

Go to my myspace page and listen to “The Tower” – it is a live version with my new band. There’s a new sound, definitely more raw than what I’ve done in the past. And come to the show and we can make your Monday night feel like a Friday.

Be sure to catch Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea on MONDAY at the Beachland. D You won't be disappointed! Doors are at 8, tickets are $10, and the show will kick off at 8:30 with opening performances by Cleveland's own Shiny Penny and the Brian Lisik Band from Akron.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #13: Paulius Nasvytis of the Velvet Tango Room

I love Cleveland. I love living here, I love the idea of the city. You all know that already, assuming this isn't your first time reading, and if it is, well, you do now. This is a city that has it all, just for the taking.

One of the things I love the most is the cultural pragmatism of the city - rarely are their frills or delicacies BUT when you need such things, we have those in abundance, too.

I've been known to have a beverage and while many of them are High Lifes while watching rock shows at the Beachland, I also find myself from time to time with a taste for something finer.

Enter Velvet Tango Room.

I've long been an enthusiast of cocktails, and the summer before I moved here, while I was spending considerable time researching the city that would soon become my home, I came across a mention of Velvet Tango Room as a nice place to have a drink. A real drink. At that point still unaware of the vast understatement of such an endorsement, I mentioned the joint to the bartender at my local watering hole. He, a fiendish aficionado of cocktail history, immediately commenced drooling and informed me how wonderful a place I'd soon be living near by. After many minutes of west coast cocktail style versus east coast cocktail style and this and that, he reached the conclusion of his ad hoc lecture: Velvet Tango Room might be the best bar in America. In the very least, it was on his dream cocktail grand tour of the nation, along with places like the Violet Hour in Chicago, Eastern Standard in Boston, the Swizzle Stick in New Orleans, and a few other places in towns like Portland and New York. Between his ravishing review and this particular blog post I discovered that summer, penned by Cleveland's own Michael Ruhlman, by the time it came to load up the moving van and flee Texas for the Cleve, VTR was on the top of my list of things I couldn't wait to discover.

Fast forward to the present and it both bewilders and pleases me to note that Paulius Nasvytis, the proprietor of the Velvet Tango Room and today's Proper Noun of the Week, has become a dear friend of mine, one of my very favorite people in this city I've come to love as my home. Paulius is as much of a cultural institution as his beautiful bar is, an asset to the city and the perfect portrait of a gentleman. He's also one of the most respected cocktail masters in the country, yet he plies his trade day after day in his semi-anonymous near west side location.

Lately, the buzz about Velvet Tango Room has reached almost deafening volumes - witness recent coverage in publications like the New York Times, USA Today, and Continental Magazine - and Nasvytis is stepping up his already top-shelf game with ambitions plans, including an exciting two-stage meet-up with one of his cocktail king counterparts, Chicago's Brad Bolt. On Monday and Tuesday, Cleveland plays host to part one of this auspicious cocktail summit as Bolt and some of his staff travel to our city and show us how they do things in the Windy City. Stage two goes down November 9 & 10 as Paulius and a few of his colleagues go west to fly the beverage banner for the 216.

In honor of this event, I asked Paulius to participate in my weekly interview series. Read on to get his take on the city, one that he has loved his entire life.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

Since 1959.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

The hustle and bustle of downtown when it still existed. Fishing in the lake.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

Clevelanders have a comparatively sophisticated palate due to its strong ethnic backbone. It’s the damn inferiority complex that our city has that hurts it.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

Little Italy for breakfast, a walk around the art museum lagoon, lunch at Greenhouse, the pier at Wildwood Park, Ty Fun, and maaaayyyybbbbbeeeee a stop at the vtr.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

See above.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Clevelanders need to start thinking in progressive albeit unusual ways for the city to rekindle. And we probably have more viable neighborhoods now than a few years ago such as Tremont, Ohio City, the Warehouse District, and the blossoming Waterloo Road neighborhood. It is the young people making it happen, actually moving there from the burbs…

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Please fire everyone in city hall, then resign. Then I would propose Stephanie’s plan to build a 10 story downtown parking garage that has bike valets, a bike mechanic on staff, showers and lockers. The rest would be for cars. It should be safe, beautiful, clean, well lighted and patrolled. Here’s the catch. It would be totally free to park. This would force the current parking lot owners to either develop the vast plots of asphalt that are all over downtown, cut the parking prices, or sell to someone who will.

To meet Paulius and to treat yourself to one of the gorgeously crafted cocktails he is famous for, stop by the Velvet Tango Room. Every night is a special occasion at the VTR, but on Monday and Tuesday there will be guest bartenders representing Chicago's finest cocktailiers from 8-11 pm both nights. Just remember - dress like a grown up and no white limos after 9.

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, and Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The week ahead: 10/25-10/31 (The CB trying not to be a Halloween grump edition)

What a week! My insistence that H1N1 is a myth is weakening, as it seems like half the city has it right now. This week was one I feel happy just surviving. I did some fun stuff, but most of the time I spent waiting to get back in my bunker. My still unpacked, crappy bunker.

Next week will be better. Lots of cool things going on, the weather forecast seems reasonable, and after a couple weeks of being ravaged by illness, most folks will be back up and at it. Right? God, I hope so.

Sunday, 10/25 - Obviously we are all watching the Browns game today. After that, we'll either cry ourselves to a furtive nap or exuberantly celebrate ourselves into a stupor. Either way, our evening will be shot, and we'll need something to wind us down into a mellow groove before greeting the work week on Monday morning. That's where CB's favorite DJ in Cleveland, Lawrence Daniel Caswell - host of WCSB's awesome Monday morning soul show - will be bringing his unparalleled record selection to the Waterloo Cafe from 8 to 10 pm. In fact, folks will be getting down there all day long, with Arts Collinwood hosting a 10 for $10 fundraiser (that's 7 bands, 1 DJ, a beer and a hot dog for a 10 spot), so check it out if you aren't a Browns fan or you recover quickly.

Monday, 10/26 - Two solid shows for you to choose from tonight: Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea at the Grog Shop OR Electric Tickle Machine at Now That's Class. Check out both groups on myspace - you'll likely be down with both. If indie rock isn't your jam, however, you can tickle your taste buds at Velvet Tango Room, where famed Chicago bartender Brad Bolt is visiting and plying his trade. Doors for this event will open at 8 pm and continue Tuesday night from 8-11 pm.

Tuesday, 10/27 - In addition to the aforementioned Bolt visit to the VTR, there are two more good options for you this evening. Enjoy a trek out to Oberlin (where it is stunningly beautiful this time of year) to catch indie up-and-comers Neon Indian play a show OR stick local and cinematic and catch the one-time-only Cleveland screening of the new Jack Kerouac film, One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur.

Neon Indian is good, but my money is on the movie, a documentary that takes the viewer back to famed Beat poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin and to the Beat haunts of San Francisco and New York City for an unflinching, cinematic look at the compelling events the book is based on.

The story unfolds in several synchronous ways: through the narrative arc of Kerouac’s prose, told in voice-over by actor and Kerouac interpreter, John Ventimiglia (of HBO’s The Sopranos); through first-hand accounts and recollections of Kerouac’s contemporaries, whom many of the characters in the book are based on such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson and Michael McClure; by the interpretations and reflections of writers, poets, actors and musicians who have been deeply influenced by Kerouac’s unique gifts like Tom Waits, Sam Shepard, Robert Hunter, Patti Smith, Aram Saroyan, Donal Logue and S.E. Hinton.

Best of all, the film also features a wonderful soundtrack of original music composed and performed by Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), with additional performance by Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service).

Wednesday, 10/28 - There are probably a lot of things going on in town on Wednesday night, but I only have one thing on my mind: Kevin Costner. Anyone who has read this blog for a long time can vouch for the fact that I have a sizable man crush on KC, so much so that I dragged ATV Matt off to the House of Blues with me one night months ago to see Mr. Costner and his country rock band play the big stage there. (Check out this trilogy of posts - parts one, two, and three - for more coverage of my Costner obsession, including a review of the show he performed at HOB.)

And now Kevin is back, at least on the big screen. Nope, I'm not talking about some new release. Rather, I'm talking about one of the Top 5 Costner films of all time coming to the most elite film series in the state ... Waterworld at Cinematheque.

Right now some of you are scoffing and I say to you, go to hell. Costner is a fine actor, maybe the best and portraying a certain kind of virile middle-class American male, and you are just being a hater right now to pretend otherwise. The list of fine films he's not just appeared in but starred in is incredible: Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Dances with Wolves, and, yes, I'll even include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Postman in those. Waterworld (along with The Postman) might be Costner's most controversial film, given its massive budget and box office shortcomings, but it is still a very good film. Moreover, increasingly it has a lot to say about environmental degradation and global water politics, which is why the CIA is not only screening it in their Cinematheque program this month, but is also getting a formal introduction from Dr. Christopher Flint, a well-respected scholar at Case Western, and why Case is also supporting the programming as part of their Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities "Cultures of Green" Film Festival.

So there, not only do you have my word for it, but this film gets the academic AND green stamp of approval. So get over yourself already and go see it. It certainly beats any of the big budget dreck you'll see at the megaplexes the rest of this year.

Thursday, 10/29 - A couple cool things, but admittedly we are running out of gas. I guess everyone is easing of the Thursday trigger to save the cool for Halloween weekend. Even still, the Akron Press Club is hosting a lecture by Rob Portman, current candidate for high office in Ohio but, in my view more importantly, one of the most grown up officials in the former George W. Bush Administration. Portman's tenure as OMB Director was noteworthy for its seriousness and professionalism, particularly during a time when there wasn't much more of that in the other parts of the administration and is a large reason why, even though his partisan affiliation makes my blood run cold, I'll still hear what he has to say and even consider giving him my vote.

Later in the evening, Oberlin brings another solid indie act to its student body (and anyone else willing to make the trek out); this time, dance masters Flosstradamus. You'll have some fun at this show, should you decide to hit it up.

Friday, 10/30 - So much is going this weekend I'm gonna follow my Kevin Costner night lead and just stick with top suggestions. For this pre-Halloween night, there is only one thing to do, and that is to make ANOTHER trip to the CIA Cinematheque, this time to catch 10 Rillington Place, a British dramatization of a real life serial killer and his brush with the legal system. It is part horror, part procedural, and all thrills. Plus, it stars, among others, a quite young John Hurt. Do it.

Saturday, 10/31 - Halloween. Oh, Halloween. Undoubtedly, you already have plans, are debating the final touches (or the entire concept) to your costume, and can't wait to get the work week between now and then done with. If you don't know what you are doing, however, let me make two very good suggestions.

Option 1: Metromix's HELLoween 2009 event, which takes place at the Grog Shop and B-Side Lounge. $5 cover upstairs, but the downstairs venue is free all night to anyone in a costume. There's gonna be holiday-driven dance beats, an Iron Maiden cover band, and cheap cocktails thanks to Three Olives Vodka and Kraken Rum.

Option 2: Wiley & the Checkmates bring their soul-filled funk (or, if you prefer, funkified soul) to the Beachland, where they'll be accompanied by Cleveland's own dynamic disc jockey duo, the Downtown Soulville team of DJ Mr. Fishtruck & DJ Racecard. Miss this at your cultural peril.

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:
- 11/1 - The Vanished Empire screens @ the Museum of Art
- 11/1 - Fellini's Casanova screens @ CIA Cinematheque
- 11/3 - Digable Planets @ Beachland
- 11/3 - Christopher Buckley lecture @ Ohio Theatre
- 11/4 - Evangelion:1.0 screens @ the Museum of Art
- 11/5 - Ghostface Killah @ Beachland
- 11/6 - John Ryan opening @ William Rupnik Gallery
- 11/6 - Natural Resources group exhibition opening @ Shoparooni
- 11/6 - Realities Unseen (Andrew Shondrick & Adam Hoskins) opening @ Low Life Gallery
- 11/6 - AIGA 365 Graphic Design event @ CIA
- 11/7 - Screw Factory open studio event
- 11/7 - White Denim @ Grog Shop
- 11/8 - Social Studies @ B-Side

Friday, October 23, 2009

CB Q/A #19: Kevin McMahon (Director of Waterlife)

I remember growing up just south of Chicago and taking trips into the city with my family, driving down Lake Shore Drive on warm summer days and staring out in envy at the throngs of beach-goers lining the shore.

I also remember, years later, going away to college to a small campus to the north of the city that also curved around the lake, and being disappointed by the fact that the "beach," such as it was, was a rocky out-cropping, and none of the sandy patches you might expect.

Finally, I remember moving up to Cleveland and learning that the city's shoreline had a little bit of both kinds of beaches, and that at places like Edgewater, folks could enjoy a day at the shore, but that no one I knew would advise such a thing. Filled with horror stories of ridiculous pollution levels and the corresponding health and safety issues, I gave up my daydreams of sitting and reading in the minor surf as small waves lapped up against my body.

When I first read about Kevin McMahon's new film, Waterlife, it reminded me of all those memories, and of the need to protect the waters we have. Poised as we are on the shore of Lake Erie, we have a commanding view of the last great fresh water supply on the planet. As we watch, its quality and sanctity erodes, threatening our economic platform as much as it ruins a day at the beach. McMahon's film delves deep into this area, examining the importance of the lakes to the 35 million people who live around them and the risks we face (and, indeed, are already facing) if we fail to curb our environmentally degrading actions.

Better still, McMahon makes this type of film, which could easily slip into self-righteous ideological bleating, into something cool, a cinematic moment as enjoyable and engaging as it is challenging. In doing so, his greatest asset is his soundtrack, which mines classic rock and to-the-minute indie releases, with inclusions of bands like The Tragically Hip (whose frontman, Gord Downie, also provides the film's narration), Sigur Ros, Phillip Glass, Robbie Robertson, Sufjan Stevens, and Sam Roberts. Once I realized the guy who had made what promises to be a great film also had pretty discriminating indie rock taste, I knew I had to try and get him to do one of these Q&As with me. What follows is the result of that conversation.

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.

Interesting question. Obviously there are filmmakers who have inspired me over the years. But the biggest cultural influence on my work is probably music and the most significant intellectual influence is contemporary science. My films are usually “environmental”, both in the sense that they are concerned with the our human relationship with the biosphere and in the sense that the films typically depict environments where that relationship is being played out in some obvious way. So I am influenced in the way I see those environments by my understanding of certain areas of contemporary science, such as complexity theory, non-linear dynamics and the odd shard of understanding I glean in my attempts to study physics. In a nutshell: I’m fascinated by the ways in which “everything connects” and try to show some of the science-based understanding of that idea in my work. The musical influence comes out in the way the films themselves are constructed. Since I am depicting environments or situations, I tend to work with the mathematical, rhythmic and poetic logic that underlies, say, a symphony or a pop song, as opposed to the linear narrative logic that drives most novels and movies.

2) Having completed the film, what do you think the future holds for the issues you identified and examined in Waterlife?

I think that depends entirely on the Great Lakes community, which is both the subject of Waterlife and its audience. The lakes are the largest source of surface fresh water on earth, so their fate matters to all the inhabitants of this planet. But practically, the people who decide that fate are the 35 million of us who live on the lakes. Right now, the lakes are in serious trouble from egregious mismanagement. Yet most of the forces degrading them could be stopped and reversed by technology and regulation, which require money and political will. Those of us who live around the lakes are arguably the richest and best educated people in the world, so there is every reason to believe that if we took the problems seriously we could solve them. Whether or not we will, then, is a matter of collective choice.

3) What is the film festival circuit like? What's the best thing and the worst?
The best thing about touring a film on the festival circuit is the opportunity to connect with audiences, which can be a powerful way to build a community around your subject. The worst thing about touring a film on the festival circuit is that it is very time-consuming and you make no money, so really it’s a game for the very young, the very rich or the very zealous.

4) What's your favorite moment in Waterlife?

There’s an interview in Waterlife with a resident of Lake St. Clair who tells us about spending decades boating and fishing from his property and how that has been ruined by sewage overflows and invasive species. Just as he gets to that point, the camera widens to show that his lake-front property has turned into swamp-front, because all the water is gone. I’d say that’s probably my favorite moment – at least my favorite to see with an audience. It always elicits gasps.

5) Though it doesn't seem necessarily germane to the subject, you've assembled a GREAT indie rock soundtrack to accompany your film. Do you see a connection between that and the film's subject, or is it just an opportunity to include music by some of your favorites?

I wanted to use pop music because Waterlife is essentially a watery road trip, which takes us from the north shore of Lake Superior to the Atlantic. It seems natural that a road movie has to have a rock score. I also wanted the film to have an eclectic soundtrack – as different as The Allman Brothers and Sigur Ros – which would reflect the diversity of viewpoints, places and people we encounter. Normally a documentary would not be able to afford this kind of soundtrack, but all the musicians involved were really supportive of the film’s mission and let us use their music for very little money.

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?

Luring out-of-town filmmakers is a complex business that really relies on tax incentives and such and is probably easier to accomplish at the state level. But a city can do a lot simply by making its own creative community feel welcome, with things like giving artists breaks on rents in city-owned property, providing decent services in the neighborhoods where artists congregate and preventing them from being evicted by the gentrification forces that inevitably trail behind them. I don’t know much about Cleveland’s own film community, but I hear there is interesting work being done in the city, so somebody there is doing something right!

7) Last but not least, any previous Cleveland experiences worth sharing?
I had two wonderful experiences there. One was my first meeting with Josephine Mandamin – the Anishinaabe woman in the film who walks around the lakes. She had already been on her journey for years when I set out to find her – which I did as she was walking through the lakefront suburbs west of Cleveland. The other fun experience there was sailing from Cleveland on the EPA ship Lake Guardian. So while neither were strictly Cleveland experiences, both gave us the chance to experience a little of your city.

Waterlife will play at the CIA Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard, Cleveland) on Saturday, 10/24, at 7:00 PM and on Sunday, 10/25, at 4:00 PM.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #12: J.R. Bennett from Unsparing Sea

The spring and summer of 2007 I didn't listen to much indie rock that wasn't made in Cleveland. I was still living in Texas then, but through intrepid internet searching and I Rock Bill's intrepid blog, I was able to learn a lot, and immersed myself thoroughly. By the time I arrived, I could converse thoughtfully, had I had anyone to have such conversations with, about albums by the likes of Coffinberry, JJ Magazine, Beaten Awake, and Expecting Rain. I was ready to go, ready to live here.

Upon moving here, I discovered Music Saves almost right away, and returned to a national selection of indie music. I still kept up with local artists and had as much fun checking out the weeknight local bills as I did most touring shows, but my focus on recorded music mostly left the 216 area code. By the end of that year, I was touting the brilliance of the latest Besnard Lakes as what I thought of as the most brilliant album of the year.

Actually, it was the co-most brilliant album of the year. The other one was a gorgeous piece of genius by Unsparing Sea. I'd caught them live a couple of times, and picked up a couple of albums at their shows, but always found myself mailing them to friends as gifts. One day, around Christmas, when I was in Music Saves doing some holiday shopping, I couldn't find the record among the other "U" selections and asked whoever it was on duty that day if they were out of it. At that point, they said the magic words - "Check the local section" - and I learned that these dudes were actually from here. How crazy was that?

Since then, I've had other similar discoveries (most recently by checking The Modern Electric's myspace page to see if they'd be touring through Cleveland any time soon, only to learn they were from Cleveland), but the Unsparing Sea folks have kept a special place in my heart. I send them fan mail from time to time, occasionally geeking out with book suggestions, and though he probably couldn't pick me out of a line-up, front man J.R. Bennett has always been kind and tolerant of my goofiness.

When I learned that their new album release party was coming up this month, after I got done cheering, I immediately decided to see if J.R. would want to do one of my proper noun of the week columns. Being the good (and tolerant of goofiness) guy that he is, he obliged. Check the outcome of that conversation out below and DEFINITELY check out Unsparing Sea when they release their newest album, In the Diamond Caverns, on Saturday 10/24 at the Beachland.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

The wifey and I have been in Cleveland for around 5 years now. We're both originally from Nashville, TN. Clevo is awesome and these +/- 1,825 days have really flown by.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Probably our first Cleveland BLIZZARD!!! Um...we don't get a lot of those in Tennessee. I've seen more snow in the past year than I did in my first 24 years on this planet.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

The most direct influence Cleveland has had in my work is all of the amazingly talented folks that help me make my art on a regular basis. There are so many unbelievable musicians and songwriters here and lots of them have either recorded us or been in the band at one time or another. Since everyone's contributions shape the final product (and our surroundings shape us) Cleveland is literally represented throughout the work.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

I'd start out with breakfast at The Coffee Pot on Madison. Then walk off all the calories in the Metroparks. Then, since it's my birthday and all, someone will have given me a gift-certificate to Music Saves, so I'd go there and stock pile some records. Lunch at Aladdin's, a matinee at the Cedar Lee, coffee at Bella Dubby, dinner at Dewey's Pizza, a show at the Beachland and some drunken midnight breakfast at 'My Friends' Deli in Lakewood. Wow, what a day. I'm tired.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

See above. Throw in the W. 25th St. Market, Edgewater Park, Cosmic Collectibles in Lakewood, Lake View Cemetery, Suite Lorain, an Indian's game. Holy shit, I'm tired again.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Friends & family.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

I'd ask why they don't make better use of the abandoned warehouse buildings that lay around mid-town and downtown Cleveland. Preferably, encouraging artists and creative types to live and work within the city. It seems like it would be worth it to the economy to fix them up and encourage small business or artists to occupy them. Plus, if one is interested in being "Green" it is much better to re-fit a building that has already been built, instead of building new ones on what use to be farm land. The suburbs are stretching further and further, while the population in downtown dwindles. There must be a way to reverse that. Right, mayor, city council and county commissioners? Of course, since I live in Lakewood, complaining about that part would be kind of hypocritical.

If you want to meet J.R., be sure to catch him on SATURDAY as he and the rest of Unsparing Sea celebrate their new album release by play it all the way through live. They'll be joined onstage in the Beachland Tavern with exciting local newcomers Casual Encounters and Akron's Trouble Books, one of the more intriguing acts currently working in Northeast Ohio. Doors open at 8:30 and tickets are $5, BUT if you elect to check out the Ballroom show (featuring NEO super-group Drummer as well as The Royal Bangs and Other Girls) and pay that cover, you'll get into the Unsparing Sea/Trouble Books/Casual Encounters madness for FREE. See you there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The week ahead: 10/18-10/24 (CB Busy as hell at work edition)

Whew. This week was a long one - all week long I was totally focused on the weekend, if for no other reason than to rest. The damp weather caught up with me, rendering me bed-ridden at the beginning of the week, but as the week progressed things got better.

The weekend ended up not being so restful, but wonderful nonetheless. I went to a great pal's birthday bash on Friday, a cool wedding at the natural history museum on Saturday (dinner & dancing with dinosaurs, yo), and today almost won a chili cook-off competition. I came in second in the people's choice ballot - obviously not a technical victory, but a clear moral one, as I'd never made chili before today. So it was kinda like the Browns keeping within the spread against the Steelers.

I could really use an easy week, but it doesn't look like that's in the cards this week either. There are great shows nearly every night of the week, and a bunch of other killer stuff thrown in for the non-music lover in you, too.

Monday, 10/19 - I have two things on my calendar that I'm equally excited about today. Naturally, they are at about the same time and on opposite sides of town. But I'm gonna make it work. Or go down trying.

Option 1: At Home in Utopia screening at Cedar-Lee. Part of the ongoing Jewish Film Festival, this documentary traces the inspiring rise and inevitable fall of one community, “The Coops” (cooperative Bronx apartments), from the 1920s into the 1950s. The United Workers Cooperative Colony, a paragon of egalitarian values long before the civil rights or women’s movement, was home to many communists and communist sympathizers, and it was the most grassroots and member-driven of the Jewish labor housing cooperatives.

Option 2: Paleface plays the venue formerly known as the Matinee on W 25th. This show will knock your socks off. If you don't believe me, check out my review from last time. If you do, check out the interview I did with him and posted earlier in the weekend.

Tuesday, 10/20 - On Tuesday, everybody's favorite multi-instrumental indie chanteuse, St Vincent, takes the stage at the Beachland. Even though she employs what might be the least responsive publicist ever, I still dig her work. And from previous journalistic experience, before you went all New York and adopted the wall of handlers approach, I know she's a pretty sweet gal. So check this out - it'll likely be a star-studded affair with appearances in the crowd from some of your favorite haircuts in town.

Wednesday, 10/21 - Wednesday is a tougher choice for music fans. Basically it boils down to a Now That's Class versus Grog Shop choice, so either way you won't be pissing comfortably. But you'll hear some good tunes, with Elusive Parallelograms playing at NTC and Langhorne Slim laying it down at the Grog.

My choice for the night, however, is cinematic. I advise you to hit up the Cleveland Museum of Art for a screening of Nollywood Babylon, an incredibly well-received documentary about film making in Nigeria, which boasts the third largest domestic film industry in the world. Doesn't sound like your cup of tea? Don't sell yourself so short so fast - this one looks amazing. Check out the trailer below if you don't think so. Your tune will change - believe it!

Thursday, 10/22 - Just like the Paleface/documentary dilemma, Thursday poses a tough choice between two good options. On one hand, you can catch another flick courtesy of the Jewish Film Festival folks, The Gift to Stalin, at the Cedar-Lee OR you can see one of the preeminent slam poets in America, Saul Williams, as he brings his craft to a heavy punk band. I have no clue where I'm gonna wind up, though I'm leaning toward the poet.

Friday, 10/23 - Another choice for you: Captured! By Robots @ the Grog Shop versus City Center @ Doubting Thomas. If you like your indie rock heavy and a cross between Chuck E Cheese-style animatronics and inter-galactic slavery, go with the Grog, but if you like to name drop hip indie labels (in this case Polyvinyl) and prefer your gallery scene to be a little edgy, Tremont's Doubting Thomas is where you should go.

Saturday, 10/24 - By Saturday, you should be wiped out. However, you are gonna have to get it going at least one more time. Rest on Sunday - Favre doesn't play for the Packers anymore, so we outta have an outside chance at beating. In the meantime, Saturdays are made for rocking, and the Beachland Ballroom has you hooked up. Not only are regional supergroup Drummer headlining a show in the Ballroom that also features pretty solid acts like The Royal Bangs and Other Girls, but my show of the week will be taking place next door.

One of my very favorite bands - not just in Cleveland, but in AMERICA - Unsparing Sea will be celebrating the release of their latest album, In the Diamond Caverns, on the Tavern side. A follow-up to their wonderful debut release, A Cloud in the Cathedral, and this year's earlier EP release, In the Crystal Canyons, these folks are in fine form on full-length #2. I received my publicity copy a week or so ago and haven't been able to stop listening, so make sure you don't miss out on your opportunity to pick up your own copy at the show, as well as hear the band play through the album's tracks all the way through.

If that wasn't enough (and trust me, after listening to this record, I'll stake every bit of my critical reputation on my assertion that it is), they'll be joined onstage at the Beachland Tavern by one of the most talented duos in all of Northeast Ohio, Akron's Trouble Books, and one of the newer indie rock bands around town here to get a little excitement going, Casual Encounters. I've never ever been disappointed by a Trouble Books performance, and I've been kicking myself for not getting to a Casual Encounters show yet, so we all have lots to look forward.

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:
- 10/26 - Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea @ Beachland
- 10/27 - Neon Indian @ Oberlin
- 10/27 - Electric Tickle Machine @ Now That's Class
- 10/27 - Brad Bolt, Chicago-based bartender extraordinaire at Velvet Tango Room
- 10/28 - Waterworld @ CIA
- 10/29 - Flosstradamus @ Oberlin
- 10/30 - 10 Rillington Place @ CIA
- 10/31 - Wiley & the Checkmates @ Beachland
- 10/31 - Metromix's Helloween Party @ Grog Shop
- 11/1 - The Vanished Empire @ CMA
- 11/1 - Fellini's Casanova @ CIA

CB Q/A #18: Paleface

Remember how awesome college radio used to be? Maybe it is still that awesome today, I dunno. With the internet, it seems like the information we relied on a few intrepid college DJs to keep track of for us is evermore at our fingertips, so the need just isn't there (though we should still support what remains, naturally). But remember back when we didn't have this fancy series of tubes and whatnots that brought us internet through etherwhatsies at the speed of light (or a braking train, depending on how your internet provider decides to screw you on a given day)?

Back then, we totally needed those DJs. And back then, they found us folks like Paleface. I reconnected with my love for this dude's body of work a few months back when I saw he was coming through town for a gig at the Beachland. At first I didn't put 2 and 2 together, but rather my attention was snagged by a Daniel Johnston reference. When I saw another Beck reference, things began to click, and I said to myself, "Wait a minute ..." followed by, after looking at the band name again and having memory crack new dawn,"All right!"

I picked up Paleface's latest record, The Show Is On The Road, and boned up on what I could find from the old days, and got stoked for his show. And my effort to reconnect was rewarded, as the night proved to be one of the best experiences I've had in a venue this year. (Check out my review of the show here.)

When I saw that Paleface and Mo, his touring partner and drummer, were making a return trip through town this month, the stokedness returned. Not a lot of folks were able to catch the genius of the last show, so I wanted to do my part to make sure that you didn't miss out on this chance. Be sure to hit up the place that used to be called the Matinee on West 25th Street tomorrow (Monday) night. (I think the joint is called Cranky's now, but I'm not sure.) In the meantime, before you yourself start up a remedial Paleface refresher course in anticipation, check out our micro-interview below!

1) What are your influences on The Show Is On the Road, and how did they change from what inspired/shaped you on previous recordings? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.?

We had a bunch of songs and recorded 30 of them. I was trying to figure out what to do with this new set of circumstances, living in North Carolina and we were bouncing back and forth between recording and road shows, and it was just a frantic search for what would work. I don’t know if it’s a destination, it’s just what happened along the way. We could have picked ten different songs and it may have been a completely different record. You don’t always succeed as an artist but you do it anyway. I think "the great unveiling" type of art/artist is kinda silly and somewhat pretentious. Maybe for painters or something. I've seen bands rehearse for months and months before playing and find out 8 months in that the singer can’t sing. Whatever-just do it the best you can and put it out and move on. You’re not Mozart but you might be if you keep making records and doing shows and finding out what works and what doesn’t. This is just what we sounded like putting our best foot forward at that time. Hopefully we've gotten better and not worse.

2) I saw your last show in Cleveland in May and was struck by how in sync you and Mo are. Was it a natural evolution to go from one-man-band to a duo or did it take time to get on the same page?

Well, when I started with Mo i invited her to join a project I was doing. We had bass, lap steel, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and drums. It was a major adjustment when we left Brooklyn cause all of that was gone and it was just the 2 of us. That was also something that shaped The Show Is On The Road cause the songs were just with the two of us and anything added was just friends putting stuff on top later on. I had to hold back arrangements and try to keep it as basic as possible.

3) What's your favorite song off the new album to play live? What about from the back catalog?

It changes week to week so I couldn't really say....sometimes you just get sick of a song and it fades out for awhile until you rediscover it. It also depends on the mood of the show-a rowdy audience is gonna like "The Show is On The Road" and a mellow audience is gonna prefer "Traveling from North Carolina."
I don’t use a set list so it sometimes gives me the freedom to suss out an audience. I’ve stood on stage sometimes in the middle of a show and just looked at the audience trying to gauge what to play next.

4) You've done a lot of work off-label. Now that you are back on a label (Ramseur), what's the difference (pros and cons)?

The label doesn't enter into the creative process (hopefully)’s only after it’s done that there are differences. The only creative difference I can see is the really raw recordings that I like are not for label release. I can’t really ask a label to release something like Se La Voo cause I know it’s too raw for most of the audience to get to. Man I’ve had A n R dudes who couldn't hear a song if I demo-ed it raw like a tin can, and they are supposed to be professionals! People say they can but 9 times outta ten they can’t. That’s really the biggest difference.

There is also a huge difference in labels from pre-internet times to now. I think the LP as art is kinda getting lost, which is too bad, but I don’t have much love for the overly smug arrogant corporate label system. They kinda had it coming. It’s too bad that artists have to suffer, too, especially the ones that are coming from an honest place and not the crummy sell-out types whose music and videos scream "I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY".

It’s always better to make music from an honest place I think whether anyone likes it or not cause you can’t control that anyway.
Ramseur is a small label so it doesn't have that same kinda bureaucracy, but the music biz is in a real state of flux as a whole. Whoever can see what’s coming next will be the one who gets the prize, if they act, but it ain’t me. I’m clueless.

5) Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

Nope. Maybe someday I’ll have an epiphany but nothing so far.

6) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

Back in the day I did a show in Cleveland and backstage before the show the pizza we had ordered was late. I was trying to get a bite before I went on stage and this really pushy stage manager was yelling at me "Now!" and I was like "can't I just get a bite or two?"
I had this song "lift yourself up slowly" and I started the set with it and as I began the song my brain just popped and the opening lines came out "Eat your pizza slowly oh yea oh yea....."

Be sure to catch Paleface and Mo on MONDAY at Cranky's (formerly The Matinee on W. 25th). You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

CB Q/A #17: Tim Rutili of Califone

I'm sick as a dog today, but when the opportunity came to have a brief Q&A chat with the frontman of one of the most innovative indie rock bands making music these days, I took it. It wasn't the most graceful of phoners, between me hacking up a lung every couple minutes and my interview subject, Tim Rutili of the stellar Chicago post-rock band Califone, racing about town getting ready to leave for a seventeen-date tour, but we got it done. Well, mostly done. We got disconnected with one question left to go (unfortunately my favorite one to ask, the one about whether an artist has any memorable Cleveland stories to share), but by that point I didn't have the lungs to try to carry on.

Still, it was a fun chat, and it has me more geeked that I already was to see the band's performance on Wednesday at the Beachland Ballroom. Speaking of which, you should be pretty geeked about that one, too. Not only is Califone awesome (and their new release, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers proves that they continue to get better with each new release), but the show itself promises to be something new and special. You see, Tim Rutili is a bit of a cineaste and has been known to make a short film or two. Recently, he got inspired and cranked out a full-length film, one that has folks lucky enough to have seen it dropping synonyms for "tremendous" and "wonderful" right and left. And you, dear reader, can be among the select group of synonym droppers, for when the band performs at the Beachland, they'll be screening the full run of the film, as well. The film centers around a fortune teller named Zel (played by respected cult actress Angela Bettis) who lives in an old house crowded with ghosts, including a priest, a bride, a mute child, some washed up vaudvillians and a noisy, sight-impaired group of musicians (Califone), among others.

Think that sounds awesome and perfectly timed? Me too. Guess I'll see you there. In the meantime, check out what the artist responsible for all this has to say.

1) What are your influences on All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, and how did they change from what inspired/shaped you on previous recordings? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.?

Writing down a list of superstitions was pretty much the start of it. Then I started videotaping people talking about superstitions, then started writing songs using some of the imagery, and then had this weird story pop in my head, and started writing songs that fed the story, which then fed into more songs, and so on.

2) Nearly everything I’ve read about your record so far has commented on the perceived turn to pop on this record. I think the songs are more accessible than previous releases, but wonder about the pop label. What inspired this turn for you?

When I was making this record I was really interested in melody, I like a nice melody these days. Our next record will be a drone record, just to cleanse our palette. So this time around I wanted to make sure our songs were really good.

2a) Why melody now?

Old age? I don’t know, man. Why do you get into anything ever? You just kind of get a taste for it. After doing it this way, though, now I want to make a noise record. Who knows what we'll be doing after that.

3) Right now, my favorite track on your new album is "Buñuel." My guess is that the song was inspired by Luis Buñuel. Exactly how, though?

While I was preparing to make my film I was watching a bunch of movies, just a bunch of films by a bunch of different people, and I went through a stretch of his work. Without thinking about it, I just wrote the song. I don’t know if it has anything to do with him. There's also a character in the film, played as a red-haired Irish guy, also named Buñuel, but it has nothing to do with the real filmmaker. The character is always carrying around a camera, but that's about it as far as similarities.

4) One of the things I'm most excited about seeing at your upcoming performance is the accompanying film. In what ways did making that film utilize your same artistic skills that you bring to recording music and in what ways did you have to bring in new things?

Making the film brought with it a lot more details. There were many more people involved, and a lot more precision involved. The biggest difference between making music and making a film is the amount of people you have to work with and the number of things you have to keep an eye on. Music feels natural to me, but making a film was a real challenge. Making this film made making a record feel like a vacation.

5) Do you see the film/album pairing as the last such artifact of Califone or is this artistic hybrid a direction you think the band will continue to go in down the road? Any concrete plans in this vein yet?

I definitely want with Califone to have choices about how we perform as we go forward so we don’t have to do the same show over and over, just playing in a bar, slamming through songs. If we can go forward with different options about how we preform, whether playing with or without a movie, that will make things much more interesting. It has been really exciting to put the performance together, and judging from first couple shows, the way we are doing it is a special experience for the audience, too.

Down the road, I will definitely make more films and more records but maybe not combine them together in the same way as I have here.

6) What's your favorite song to play off the new album?

"Buñuel" was really fun to play the last few days, especially with that ending.

6a) What about the back catalog?

"Michigan Girls," for sure, and some of those older ballads with a lot of space in them, like stuff from the last record (Roots & Crowns)and Quicksand/Cradlesnakes.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers Trailer from Califone on Vimeo.

Be sure to catch Tim and the rest of Califone as they play tracks from their new album, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers and screen the film of the same name on WEDNESDAY at the Beachland Ballroom. Doors are at 8:30 and tickets are $12, but can be purchased in advance for only $10 at venues like Music Saves on the east side and Visible Voice on the west side.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tonight in Cleveland - Waterloo Rocks

Last night, a friend and I spent a grand evening in Tremont. From an early (and gut-busting) dinner at Sokolowski's to some patient book shopping at Visible Voice to a play at convergence-continuum to a post-theater drink at Velvet Tango Room. It was awesome and all within only several blocks.

Tonight you can do the same, though you'll have to abandon the near west side for the city's northeast quadrant. Taking place on Waterloo Road, no longer the CB Home Away From Home but now Just Plain Home, you can take in the opening of Low Life Gallery's second annual Spooktacular exhibit (note: I was in there a few days ago when they were hanging some of the work for the show and there are some really wonderful pieces), celebrate with the ladies at Shoparooni as they mark the store's second birthday, do some Halloween mask making among the shelves of vintage toys at Star Pop, listen to some experimental ambient goodness courtesy Akron's spectacular Trouble Books at Music Saves or a WCSB/WRUW battle of the DJs at Blue Arrow Records, and then bring it all home at a late-night release party for the newest issue of Pink Eye Magazine at the Beachland.

Need something to eat? Well, venture over to the Grovewood if you want something fancy or the Boardwalk if you want something cheap.

The week ahead: 10/11-10/17 (CB probably gonna be sick in bed edition)

The last few weeks, with the change in the weather, I've seen numerous pals go down to illness, sometimes for a day or two, sometimes for longer. I've looked on in sympathy (both sincere and good health karma inspired) and hoped/naively expected I'd manage to elude the crud this year.

Alas, it appears not to be so. I woke up this morning with an unpleasant tickle in my chest and now, a few hours later, that tickle has morphed into a wheeze and with ever cough I realize the depth of garbage in my chest exceeds what I'd previously feared. Fortunately, given the oddity of my work schedule, I only really have to leave my bed once next week, so I'm probably not gonna have to pull a phlegmatic zombie and muscle through numerous workdays, infecting my colleagues and such.

Still, I will probably have to check out of all the fun stuff, of which there is a bunch. Check out all the cool stuff I likely won't be doing next week and, do me a favor, somebody please check it out on my behalf?

Sunday, 10/11 - Two big shows in town this Sunday night. Feel like an evening of J/Swede-pop? Plug the Grog Shop's coordinates into your GPS and go check out Asobi Seksu, Loney Dear, and Anna Ternheim. Like your sound a little heavier? Then check out the Black Angels/Disappears/Pierced Arrows bill at the Beachland.

Monday, 10/12 - Hmm.

Tuesday, 10/13
- Hmm, part deux.

Wednesday, 10/14 - Califone brings their multi-media show to the Beachland Ballroom. This is one I've really been looking forward to, and if I'm still sick on Wednesday my heart will break into tiny pieces. The Chicago post-folk/pop rock band is touring on behalf of its newest release, All My Friends are Funeral Singers, and the show also features a screening of band frontman Tim Rutili's film of the same name (a well-received feature about a psychic woman in the woods and stars Angela Bettis). This is some good stuff folks, don't miss out.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers Trailer from Califone on Vimeo.

Thursday, 10/15 - The big draw tonight is They Might Be Giant's show at the Beachland, where they will be playing their classic album, Flood, in its entirety. If you have tickets for this one, have a blast. If not, tough luck, as that sucker is all sold out. Fear not, however, as CB favorite Heelsplitter is playing at Nemeth's Lounge in Painesville, the CSU Poetry Center has a good event featuring Oni Buchanan and Carmen Gimenez Smith, and the Jewish Film Festival gets kicked off with a screening of Refusenik at Shaker Square. Plenty of good stuff to do, even if you won't be hearing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" up close and personal.

Friday, 10/16 - Fridays always leave us with tough live music decisions to make. This one will be no different. You can (a) catch The Mars Volta at House of Blues (get there early and have dinner there first), (b) see Dr Dog at the Beachland, or (c) catch UK punker Dave House at the Soggy Dog House in Lakewood.

Saturday, 10/17
- To be honest, I haven't paid much attention to what is going on this day, as I'm accompanying a pal to a wedding. I do know that the critically acclaimed film A Woman in Berlin is screening at the CIA Cinematheque. How about you check that out, maybe have dinner somewhere nice in University Circle beforehand and a beer at the Barking Spider after. There, that sounds nice. Enjoy.

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:

- 10/19 - Paleface @ W 25th Matinee (FREE)
- 10/19 - Coit Road Market Benefit @ Beachland
- 10/19 - At Home In Utopia screens @ Cedar-Lee (JFF)
- 10/20 - St Vincent @ Beachland
- 10/20 - Poets David Baker and Kevin Proffer read at CSU
- 10/21 - Nollywood Babylon screens @ CMA
- 10/21 - Langhorne Slim @ Grog Shop
- 10/21 - Elusive Parallelograms @ Now That's Class
- 10/22 - Saul Williams @ HOB
- 10/22 - The Gift to Stalin screens @ Cedar-Lee (JFF)
- 10/23 - Captured! By Robots @ Grog Shop
- 10/23 - Ghoulardi Fest @ the Cleveland Airport Marriott (through 10/25)
- 10/24 - Drummer/Royal Bangs @ Beachland Ballroom
- 10/24 - Unsparing Sea release party @ Beachland Tavern
- 10/24 - The Debt screens @ Cedar-Lee (JFF)