Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Offbeats - Knucklehead

Hey, been a long time. Sorry, I guess I got busy or lost track of time or something.

I am on my fourth Coors Banquet on this Tuesday night in Long Beach trying to summon the courage to write a Cleveland Classic piece for the Offbeats LP 'Evolution of the Stickman'. It would be the first thing I wrote for the blog in about two years. Time flies but nothing changes regarding my horrible procrastination and general apathy. Cleveland to the damn bone.

I decided I am not going to do it. The record player is in the other room, the child is pulling on my leg and there is a spider somewhere just waiting. This is real life. But, before submitting to the inevitable laziness, I looked for the record on You Tube. I only found a few songs. A roadblock for some, but I decided to make a new column...Drunk You Tube. But, literally just now as I typed that, I remembered I did a You Tube based column for Dead Town years ago (it went nowhere). I could never repeat myself and do another one.


I had heard of the Offbeats for years; my older friends may have mentioned them in passing or, just maybe, I met someone who had played in the band during some hazy night at the Beachland Tavern. I knew the name registered but not a single tune. Regardless they had remained off my stereo until about a month ago after buying 'Stickman' off Ebay during a routine search of the keywords 'Cleveland Punk LP'. That simple search brings true treasure.

I played it for the first time in my garage a few nights ago while "doing laundry" which is code for doing jack shit while sipping on beers alone in the dark. I was legit floored; not by expert musician ship or deep, thoughtful song writing but by a familieraty I had never experienced upon a first listen of any band. Two seconds in, time enough for the start of a riff and blast of drums, and I knew this was some true Clevo shit.

It took me back to countless nights on the West Side, mind swirling/head thrashing, getting lost in a local punk band. It was like taking some sort of time travel pill... jolted straight back to my early twenties, ponied up at the Five O 'Clock while Billy from the Vacancies played records on a Wednesday night. Working class, earnest rock and roll comes in many shapes and formulas but, in the rustbelt wastelands of the midwest, there is something that cuts deeper than anywhere else.

"'Knucklehead' is full throttle driving - over the legal limit and unaware of its surroundings - pounding your ears into the damn dirt. It's hard to even fathom this is from 1987 considering what main stream music sounded like at the time...the Offbeats were on another level: these guys would have drunk dialed Madonna while having a one nighted with Tiffany. At the time Cleveland's underground was so ahead of its time; be it the beginning of the hardcore movement that would be such a big part of the cities punk history led by legendary bands like Face Value or the bar room, blue jeans scene of acts like the Floyd Band.

In the mix but off my radar (I was 8 in 1987) I missed out on some cutting edge shit and the Offbeats cut to the bone, man.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jim Konya


The city of Cleveland's music scene has an amazing kinship that I have never found in any other city I have either lived in or visited. Friendships span genres of music and sides of town; if you are a good person you will be accepted. To make something like that work you need leaders or people who are kind of like good will ambassadors. Right off the bat I can think of a half dozen names that we could agree fit that bill but none would be more deserving than Parma's first son, Jim Konya.

The city mourns the untimely loss of such a rare soul that can never be replaced. In recent weeks I have read so many testimonials about Jim and his character, lust for life and, maybe most of all, his sense of humor and all I can do is agree. I was never super close with Jim but we were friends and I always jumped at the chance to spend time with him, talk to him and enjoy his company. 

Cleveland music and the city itself will never be the same with out you, Jim. 

Help Grant Jim Konya the Key to the City of PARMA!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Classic Cleveland - Cleveland Metal Compilation

I have been on a Cleveland vinyl record binge of sorts for the better part of 2015; often I can be found face in iPhone, scouring Ebay and Discogs for classic slabs of vinyl from northeast Ohio bands typing in keywords like Dreyfus and the Floyd Band that have probably never been searched for in the history of the site. I feel like hugging the mail lady every time she drops a thin square box onto my porch...I don't though.

The record that started my downward spiral into internet vinyl purchasing hell was the absolute Cle Classic, Cleveland Metal compilation. A brave but reckless gathering of the cream of a nasty crop of bands from a town that, at the time, was a wasteland of poverty and crime. Of course this is what makes metal what it is and this record is full of METAL...better or worse.

Opening with a maniacal laugh, Black Death are the single best choice to start this comp. "Taken by Force" is charging; a force to be reckoned with, bashing in your head with absolute metal power. How these guys never "made it" in the eighties metal world is beyond me; they sound as contemporary and looked as brutal, in their denim and chains, as just about any band in the mainstream at the time. They deliver bad ass street metal on "Until We Rock": a Cleveland love song if there ever was one. Sounding like Kiss if they grew up in Parma, they wail "I need your loving, you need my loving too".

Sacred Few bring what they call "rock and roll salvation" but it's really a randy AC/DC impersonation. It makes more than perfect sense that a Black Label swilling bar rock band would be in the mix on a comp like this from early eighties Cleveland: as progressive as we want to make ourselves out to be the music scene has always been about cold beers and battle scars which these guys HAVE to be full of. It's a drunken blur of a song straight out of any bar on Lorain Road...hey man, they say it best "you'll be rocking with the Sacred Few".

It's really the sparse recording of Mistreater that is the center of the record. Trashy, wicked and dangerous; they sound REAL like something I would have bought after hearing it played on WJCU. Their rare EP can fetch triple digits on EBay but this one song is enough to get the point that these guys lived by their name.

Not surprisingly its Cleveland legends Breaker that are the run away highlight with two well produced tracks of progressive metal that seems light years ahead of its time in comparison with its cohorts on Cleveland Metal. "10 Seconds In" is hulking in it's nerdy story telling charm while "Walking the Wire" showed a song writing prowess that eventually helped them break internationally much like Shok Paris who are a raging, rocking octopus of metal charm on their sped up track "Go Down Fighting" making Dokken look like pussies in the nighttime alley metal genre.

Last thought here is why has no current Cle metal band covered the first two minutes of Sorcerer's thrashy "Bloodline"? It's the perfect tear the room up ripper to shell out at Now That's Class gigs but only the first two minutes, the following 4 minutes are a hung over attempt at doom art riffing that is classic Cleveland fumbling.

A true gem and time capsule if there ever was one for the early Cleveland metal scene. I am really thankful to have been able to find some of the stuff I have gotten my hands on recently. Cleveland has such a rich history in rock, heavy music and pure underground nonsense and it's an absolute pleasure diving into it all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Good Clean Cleveland Fun - A Live Review: Fuck You Pay Me

I finally placed my two feet back onto that blessed Ohio ground after a year and a half estranged. It felt like I was walking on air - I was beyond happy to be back where my roots are so solidly planted. When I got the text that Clevelands steam rolling, hardcore vets Fuck You Pay Me were playing at the Foundry I was pumped, excited at the thought of reliving some memories in a building I have been blacking out inside of since my early twenties.

From when I first talked my way past a huge cover charge ("listen we are going to spend double that cover on drinks in an hour") at the Blind Lemon (I think Total Chaos was playing) to drunkenly ringing in the New Year at the HiFi while Stevie Rachelle of Tuff murdered cover songs in an ugly display of the eighties rock bottom falling out - I have loved that place as much as I can remember of it. Now the Foundry, its third name in my patronage history, the club looks exactly the same with only some flat screen televisions to spruce up an otherwise rock and roll hole in the wall.

Let's forget all about the weird, ugliness of headliners the Meatmen and just move on to what matters here: Cleveland. Wetbrain played soon after I arrived; sun still in the air, stumbly singer clad in shorts looking like he just left a bbq in Ohio City. The bombastic, no fucks given punk found on their LP (reviewed HERE ) was lost in the hollow sounding room leaving the songs seeming sober or maybe just day drunk and somber. The band ripped through the set, chugging through as the small crowd did the same to so many cans of cheap beer, leaving me wanting a second shot in a seedier, more dangerous setting as the music demands.

Gluttons brought the inebriated crash course they have been delivering for over a decade with no apology. Their cover of Cheap Tricks "Hello There" was a highlight: full of piss and gasoline, they turned the anthem over and exposed the pure dumbness of rock and roll fun...in a good way.

FYPM took the stage with the usual Cleveland one two punch of shit talking followed by a face smashing ripper from the get-go. Tony Erba laid the Parma charm on thick, insulting the crowds drinking habits and calling out old girlfriends. Anchored by Aaron Dowells razor blade guitar licks, FYPM is a bouncing, weaving, ship out of control. They are Cleveland hardcore meets Kentucky Fried Movie; loud and crude carnival barkers trying to sell you on the newest buckeye state conspiracy theory. 

It may not have been a night at the Cleveland Orchestra but the music heard was as much a staple lodged into the skin of the city. It's nonsensical bar rock but it has been as much a part of growing up in the Cleveland area as Big Chuck or Cotton Club; a dark monster lurking in the most unappealing dive bars along the Cuyahoga river since as long as I can remember. Good clean Cleveland fun.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Destroy Cleveland

Time has not been on my side as I try to train my son to look at Lebron James as savior and teach him the words to "Moon Over Parma" before he can technically speak. So I am just now getting to posting the Destroy Cleveland trailer. By this time I hope most of you are aware that the film, about the Cleveland hardcore scene of the 80s and 90s, has been made and is almost ready to premiere in multiple metropolitan cities across America.

To be fair, I think the trailer lacks something in the grit department but that's just me being overly critical about a teaser clip. I have scars from these years both physical and emotional so I expected it to hit me like a punch in the face but it was more like a so-so appetizer, just something to make me anticipate the main course.

Still a movie about bands like Integrity, One Life Crew and the H-100s is something that was the world was begging for even if they were not aware who most of those bands were. The rest of the world may have well not existed as far as most of the kids in Clevo were concerned back then; the bands had manic, depraved, violent punk rock dialed into a place not many have been able to duplicate since.

Not too late to donate to the film, you get some cool pins for the effort, these types of projects cost a lot of money but, even more so, they require so much time and commitment from the brave souls that create them. Can't wait to see the movie and I hope the city embraces it even louder and uglier than they did what was going down inside Speak in Tongues.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Draw Hard Trailer

I am admittedly sad for myself that I did not know about the film Draw Hard sooner than today. Set to be released February 27th through Fandor, it is a documentary by TurnStyle Films about Cleveland's gnarliest and most dedicated poster artist, John G. I have known John for what seems like forever - always welcoming a warm conversation with him whenever we ran into each other. John was one of the first people to regularly read this blog and pushed me foreword with encouraging words when I first moved to Los Angeles.

It was his penchant for drawing humans with animal heads and other such post apocalyptic images that turned me on to his work - later hiring him to draw posters for my band Southern Trespass (I will never forget that babe he drew, shotgun draped over shoulder, for the big Jigsaw gig.)

Anyway, I am glad I know about this film and I am surely going to seek it out next week. And I am over joyed to help spread the word about Draw Hard and my old friend Johns collection of work because he is truly the embodiment of Cleveland's DIY spirit.

Check out the Draw Hard Facebook

Draw Hard Trailer from TurnStyle Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One Song in Words - HIRAM-MAXIM Visceral

The Lottery League was always a great way to hear some abstract music from people who usually stick to what they know. Much like the Battle Bowl in World Championship Wrestling, it randomly drew names of local musicians from a hat to create bands made up of sometimes total strangers forced to write brand new music together ASAP. This Marvel comics “What If” philosophy is how local ambient stoner metallers Hiram-Maxim came to be – in pure truth is stranger than fiction fashion, they are set to release their first full length record on Aqualamb records.

Thanks to the fine people at Vice, the world got a sneak peak with the early release of the song Visceral: a seven minute opus of raw emotion and down trodden riffs – a journey through a dark dimension of musical experimentation (aka Cleveland weirdness at it’s most artistic). Fred Gunn provides the eerie vocals – a far removal from his days fronting the snotty punk rock antagonizers Sex Crimes. Here he shows another side of his personality: a somber, dare we say more adult, Gunn has a voice full of sorrow on Visceral, a song he says he wrote in remembrance of a deceased friend.

The first two minutes creeps with the vampy persistence of Type O Negative; a gothy mystery that tugs us along until exploding into a doom metal ode to Midwest hardcore, like Windhand covering Endpoint. Pedal fuzz drains the song into horror movie score territory, blissfully spinning into a heavy-eyed end, leaving goose bumps on arms and sleep at bay. If the full length stands up against Visceral then we are in for a long night of exceptional music that’s in a league of its own.

Hiram-Maxim Website