Well, folks, you did me proud. January's Cleveland Bachelor Show of the Month was the best attended concert since we started doing this series. I'm pretty sure the filled Tavern had more to do with the stellar out-of-town acts on the bill than anything I can claim credit for, but reality never stopped me from making boastful claims before, and it won't stop me this time, either.
There was an interesting vibe all evening, which I figure was the combination of the eerie fog that had set in across the city and the delicious lamb riblet dish I enjoyed before the show at the Grovewood. My pal Cookbook and I took our time with dinner, mostly because I wasn't keen on the band that I figured would be opening and didn't want to sit through the entire set. We ended up rolling in a little before 9:30, about when we figured the second band on the triple bill, NYC's The Octagon, would take the stage. I've been raving about The Octagon since first coming across their work when I saw they were the playing the show with headliners The Rural Alberta Advantage - they've got a great and delightfully sloppy post-punk edge that recalls pre-Dookie Green Day and a boatload of talent to boot, so I definitely didn't want to miss them.
When Cookbook and I walked in, the room was full of chatter and the stage was empty. Since shows on Sunday nights are often early and efficient in their pacing, I assumed we'd timed things just perfect, and when I saw Zack Mexico, The Octagon's frontman (who, swear to god, looks like a young Eddie Vedder in profile) go onstage and strap on his guitar, I just knew I was right. The band ripped into their set, leading off with "Clew Haywood" and "Suicide Kings," two of the strongest tracks on their completely hype-worthy recent record, Warm Love and Cool Dreams Forever. (Check out my review of the album here.)
40 minutes or so later, the band took leave of the stage, with a final thank you to the crowd that sets by The Buried Wires and The Rural Alberta Advantage were still to come. "What?" I thought to myself - I thought we missed the openers. Guess not. In fact, I know we didn't, because we were then treated to a 45 minute set of the most boring indie rock I've heard in forever. Seriously, a friend leaned over during the set and asked if I thought the band ever fell asleep during practice, they were so dull. I hate to talk shit about folks in Cleveland doing their art, but I also don't want to be the person who says everything is great just because the creator of said art has a phone number that likely starts with a 216 area code. This was the third time I've seen this particular bad play out, and every time I've felt like sticking my head in a bucket of ice. I just don't get what the deal is with this group, particularly considering they keep getting choice opening slots for the kinds of band names that get bold-face treatment on Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, and that e-cohort. Oh well. At least I can say that the band has a pretty good drummer and bass player, so if anyone in Cleveland fancies themselves a front man or woman needing a rhythm section, you may want to direct your poaching energies thataway.
Luckily for me, the Beachland has a mighty fine vintage store in the basement, and after I'd stood as much of the middle band as I could, I ventured down there, where I proceeded to start jawboning with the legendary Dave P and Zack Mexico, The Octagon's guitarist and vocalist (and author of this pretty damn cool book). We chatted about all sorts of shit, but we were on to gourmet ice cream by the time a couple of gals walked down the stairs. Strangely, the room fell quiet at that exact moment, and one of the girls said, "Well hello boys - what are you up to?" to the gang of dudes in the room. When Dave replied, "Oh, talking about ice cream and bookstores," she seemed unconvinced. I can't really blame her.
A couple moments later, I heard the chattery echoes upstairs subside and a few chords from Nils Edenloff's guitar run through the sound system. Beckoned by the sound, I returned to the Tavern, and dug my way through a solid set of songs from the Toronto trio. I've really come to love the work that The Rural Alberta Advantage has been doing, and between their performance, the dynamic set by The Octagon, the aforementioned riblets, and the joy of seeing a bunch of good friends at different parts of the evening, I went home a happy camper.
The fact that I entered my apartment to a sleepy beagle, a brazen puggle, and an addictive scent wafting out of my pulled pork-filled slow cooker didn't hurt, either.