Sunday, May 20, 2007

Classic Cleveland # 1

I had an idea for something I would do on this blog called Classic Cleveland. Even as I start to write the first one, I still don’t know what it means. Reviews of classic records, classic shows or maybe a classic person. Probably just record reviews, though. So here’s the first attempt.

Stepsister
Autopilot Stuck on Get Down
Smog Veil Records

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For a few years the band Stepsister totally ruled my social calendar. I’ve seen them play wild Parma drag-outs, shows at Peabody’s where there was barely another soul in the building; I was even hip to their last Cle performance. A new band called Bad Wizard was playing and, sorry dudes (and chick), our heshed stoner rock beat yours from New York. I loved this band so much that I actually ended up in the project that came from their ashes, Amps II Eleven, and it was like a rite of passage. So we enter my first attempt at the Cleveland Classic idea with a very biased look back on a killer record. Hey, I’m drunk on a Sunday and this is like going to church for me.

Autopilot was recorded with what is arguably the best 'Sister lineup if not only the last. The Eakin brothers (the late Scott on drums and singer Tom Dark) always knew how to win us all over: with utter relentlessness. The addition of Aaron Dowell and Attila Csapo on guitars and Tony Erba on bass cemented this band as a steamroller.

‘Her Name Was Knife’ kicks things off with the WORST song title in the cities’ history but also packs a charging riff and a screech so tone deaf that it could only come from Darks mouth. Amazing. This song chugs along and never really advances toward anything other than kicking your fucking teeth in; we see where things are going. ‘Wild Ride’ comes next with more of the same. At this point you’re drunk, your girlfriend has lost her panties and when Dark yells out, ‘taking a ride, yeah!’, your fist is in the air. This song was always brutal live. Where’s the denim, buddy?

‘Coming Down Hard’ provides a brutal end; full of speed, crashing solos and pierogi-stinking howls. The title holds weight; this is the type of song one creates when coming down and falling right onto skid row. ‘Blackout Man’ continues the trend of hardly living. ‘Yeah, I’m blacking out!’ Dark screams behind the first hint of the heavy eighties hardcore influence these guys had. It’s like Black Flag met the Hells Angels and a party just kinda ensued.

By the time you get to ‘Pay the Price’ your head better be swimming because mine sure does. The riff that starts it off is so right-on, if a circle pit doesn’t start off the bat, it must be one of those shows I spoke about where I was there alone (Steve Callahan was probably near by, though). The faint ‘Get Down!’ heard in the break down is further proof of how GREASY this record is.

Now we’re down to bare bones. ‘Long Time Gone’ is placed perfectly, second to last. The sleazy and almost inept attempt to do an epic intro is either a bit of an inside joke or just plain genius as it leads into another fucking rage of punk guitar-rock. If you don’t dig a solo in between verses then I suggest you retire to your Pixies records.

Last, but by no means least, is my personal live favorite, ‘Big Bad World’. I remember a group of us 'Sister fans falling over ourselves and onto the stage of the Revolution on Brookpark Road; arms laced around each other mouthing the chorus together. ‘It’s a big bad world/and it’s all mine!’ Life was fine, brother. On disc the song doesn’t seem to transfer the urgency I felt when they would close the set with this song. Fuck, I was twenty-one and really drunk, all of the time. Today it reminds me of a lot of the songs I hear other Cle bands playing. Makes sense that the band no one ever went to see would, in turn, influence a whole crop of bands in its wake. As I continue to listen, the goose bumps are beginning to return. Sorry, but this was a time in my life, man. Not much has changed. It’s still a big bad world but I’m no longer sure it’s even remotely mine.

There’s another weird scream from Erba before the song starts to leave us. Where was he when he did those? He sounds like a fan sitting on a stool at the back of the Jigsaw (before they had the room with the stage). The guitar work begins to shake and boogie, turns are being taken and it sounds like what it is: a barroom jam made by working class blokes.

I'm glad this record was made. I'm also glad to have had these dudes in my life for a year or two. No matter what was going on in my life, I KNEW that Stepsister would be playing somewhere that week. And they always were.

I’m not going to bother with rating a Cleveland Classic. I’m only reviewing records that meant something to me. I’m most important. Stepsister was most important. Then they broke up.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It was 'Another Perfect Day'

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I went to see the mighty, majestic and all around wonderful Lemmy Kilmister play with his band The Head Cat at Peabody’s with a headache. Of course this is the worst possible place to go for a show even if you have something as trivial as a hangnail. I guess what that means is that Peabody’s has a tendency to make me sick, make me angry and make my wallet fall light after way too many tall cans of cheap, shit beer. So when some thick neck security guy informed me that I had to give him the memory card from my camera while Mr. Kilmister was dazzling me with interpretations of Buddy Holly and Credence songs, I immediately started penning a vicious call to arms; asking all of my faithful Cleveland drunkards to stand up and ban this corporate trickery.

I was seething but I couldn’t help but smile at my hero who stood on stage brilliantly smoking a cigarette in a town that is trying to get it’s citizens on board with the idea of a smoke free Ohio. I love that man (No, I really do. I’m not jumping on any sort of band wagon. My roommates and I once named the house cat after him and those two big warts).

Post drink purchase, I happened across the guard who nabbed my memory card. He took me to the office and slipped a card off of a table and handed it to me. In all, there were only two there. Either no one else thought enough of Lemmy to bring their photo takinf devices or myself and someone else were made to be examples. No worry, it was nice that they gave me the card back.

Then I see that he had made a drastic mistake and given me someone else’s card. Was this merely an oversight or do they have piles of old cards lying about to replace ones from customers that may be holding important photos that they laughingly erase (I had photos from Wrestlemania 23 on mine for God’s sake)?

It was just a mistake.

In fact everyone was way nice in sorting it all out. The security guard even let me know that he didn’t give any sort of a fuck… all part of the job, you see. I put the card back into my camera and checked to see if they had invaded my personal space and erased my memories (something of which the beer was doing just fine at).

There was Mr. Kilmister.

It all ended well and everyone walked out smelling of roses and High Life. Aside from ruining the last half-hour of the show for me, I’d say everything went smoothly that night and I have to give my second least favorite venue in town (well, does the Phantasy even count as a venue anymore?) a deserved, if not reluctant, clap of the hands (only one!).

I’d be foolish not to mention the band that truly blew my mind (well, the Lemmy-less one), Slack-Jawed Yokels. Let me start by saying that they’re from somewhere around Medina. Their myspace page says Granger Township. I have no idea where that is. I don’t care frankly. There’s no way a kid from the city was going to write these ruckus numbers full of stupid lyrics about drinking and rocking. Their guitar player killed it, man. They all did. They also look a little nerdy which is bonus.

Sample Lyric (I know that I am butchering this but the show was almost a week ago): ‘We’re going down to Kentuck/There’s lots of liquor stores there/We’re gonna buy us some beer/Slack Jawed-Yokels going to the liquor store!’

Uncle Scratch was great too. Brother Ant shattered a bottle of beer toward the end of their last set (USGR often play between bands… in corners, in parking lots, wherever the spirit suggests). The glass fell down on Brother Ed like some sort of divine shower from the heavens. I hope more then the blood of Christ was shed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the start of the end of summer

The other day I was sitting at the light at Denison and 25th. I felt and saw nothing out of the ordinary except for the really nice weather and the fact that people were out and about with smiles on their faces. Then the gun shots go off. I’d say about eight of them.

It’s two in the afternoon and there is some fucking kid shooting at people in the middle of the McDonald’s parking lot. Two other dudes split. One runs toward the bridge over the zoo, the other wonders toward the line of cars on 25th. Traffic is heavy and people start screaming and freezing. It’s all surreal to me and I kind of don’t know if I should duck or take it all in. It’s two in the fucking afternoon and this awful fucking shithead is firing shots left and right. He didn’t hit his targets and thankfully anyone else from what I could tell.

Cleveland needs to implode and start over. It needs to tap out, submit. There is an awful mess here and no one is trying to clean it up or even lead us in a different direction. Cleveland is an awful place sometimes. Yet there’s so much that keeps us here.

Speaking of the small moments of terror that one is exposed to living in the metro area, I have to mention that Gordon Solie Mother Fuckers reunited this past weekend. I only caught the evening show at Now That’s Class but it quenched my thirst for Cle hardcore. Erba was fantastic; bleeding, yelling and jumping through tables. The band sounded great. They looked great too; street thugs from Parma (and Painesville), tons of time logged in at the arcade between them. I could probably go another six or more years until I need to see this sort of reunion again and that’s hopefully how long it will take. Gunshots are one thing but there’s only so much GSMF I can handle. Call me a pussy, I don’t care. Eventually we’ll all go back to what brought us to the dance. For me it’s hardcore. Cleveland hardcore. But it’s nice to take a break and smell the gunpowder.

It’s summer in the ‘best location in the nation’. If anything we have our beer and Drew Carey. Why can’t we be happy with that?