Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Obsessions Become Phobias
Man’s Ruin Records
Fuck me. This record was a total slayer. Top to bottom, front to back, Disengage made a record that fit the Cleveland landscape of the time like a fucking glove. The churning guitar parts tearing up the rust belt and spitting it out onto the floor of the old Grog. I’ll never forget watching Jason throw the microphone out to unsuspecting fans, often knocking them for a loop or busting their shit open in time with the drums. Sean pounding away at the bass like he was pummeling some wingnut from the east side.
Spine of Teeth opens up the record like a hit off of a passed pipe, the initial rolling rhythm leading a battalion of scummy Cleveland drunks into battle. Front-duder Jason Byers leads the charge with a motivational speech of strange descriptions of how he’s coiled and shit like that. Do you know what he means by that? I still don’t but it sounds like some heavy shit is going down and it’s all really strange.
Every Sunday was and is still the ultimate Disengage anthem. This was where the kids went ape shit and a lot of teeth probably got knocked onto the floor by that airborne microphone. It’s also the weirdest shit they ever wrote. ‘Sunday is now primate pride day!’ I’ve never seen another Cle band that was able to get hundreds of people to chant something as spacey as that. ‘Kiss me, I’m Spider Monkey.’???? What?
And don’t forget the amazing ‘Burn Detroit Down!’ chant in Angels Night Cleveland’s answer to all that is Midwestern.
The whole machine is well oiled but the mechanic at large has got to be drummer Jonathan Morgan. Good thing you can’t go to jail for rape when it’s the drums your giving it to. Just listen to the slow burning build up to Every Sunday. Wait for it. Yeah, there’s that crushing refrain, the one that used to make dozens and dozens of heads bang wherever they were playing… Rock Hall or busted basement.
Tyrants Blues continues the bizarre ape-man theme but forget it and listen to those gnarly riffs and the happy-go-lucky vocals. It’s a look at what stoner rock would evolve into years later with bands like Torche making metal positive and evil at the same time.
Unfortunately some of the songs take on a Headbangers/120 Minutes tone, like Exhaust which does nothing but slow down what was becoming the musical equivalent to a key bump of speed.
Nine Lives A Day and Tarantella continue to push the record further into a frenzy of rough guitar riffs and weirdo lyrics, cementing this CD as the frosted tundra of the Flats official soundtrack. Tarantella serves as the perfect ‘fuck you’ song to some broad that gave you the shaft. “Spider crawled across the bread, Could have bit me I would not know.” Somehow that is forever brutal to me and the following cry of ‘Not trying to please you this time’ is the proper fuck off to every relationship.
Promise Keeper begins with Morgan enticing us into their fucked up web with a throbbing drum beat followed by some eerie (or should I say Lake Erie??? What about it?) guitar strumming. Something about ‘gang rape’ in the lyrics. More brutal strumming and then we get pounded into the frozen sand with a vicious refrain. Grew A Tail brings more smiling vocals about fucked up shit and guitar work that comes at you like a repeated hit and run with barbed wire snow chains on all four tires.
The record ends with the ripper Girl From Emphysema where Disengage really show off their hardcore chops with a sped up gem that doesn’t even have the patience to make it past the two minute mark. And it leaves you wondering if that girl did, in fact, explode. If so… that rules.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
(Sweat drops from hero's brow)
I'm sure things are not all well and good in Cleveland but I would trade this cockroach infested pit for a stray cat infested dive in Tremont right now, with a cool lake breeze knocking down the leaves onto the dirt yard. No matter where I live it's a shit hole. I've had people actually tell me this to my face. Amazing luck or poor hygiene and life skills? I don’t know.
I read a couple of internet posts about the continuing saga of the Jigsaw monopoly. Man, I have to say it's nice to be away from this story because I don't have to really give it much thought. Yeah, one group owning so many venues can not be good for the business (wrestling term. I'm talking 'bout Cleveland though). I think contracts are bad as is and when I heard about the new ones that tie bands to a strict policy of not playing for a defined period of time before and after a gig at a 'Saw affiliated club is worse than the milk turning to cheese in the sink five feet away from me. It's too bad the Jigsaw is such a great BAR because it makes this hard for me to decide who is right and who is wrong. I mean, they have a tall of Blue Moon just waiting for me to return some distant Monday night. I'll meet you there at 7.
Honestly, I don't know the whole long and short of it but, from what I read on message boards (the only reliable link to the Cleveland scene from such a distance), certain promoters are taking to fucking bands with a dominate barbed wire taped fist by not letting them gig around their contracted responsibilities.
I used the term responsibilities because, ultimately, that is what each show is to any given band. Once you agree to show up, it's your responsibility to do so and, when all is said and done, draw people. Some clubs are in the business of making money and other are in it for music(or whatever the fuck) but you still need to make the money to pay the bills, to keep doors open, and the heat on. One problem with Cleveland music is the over saturation of shows. Bands in Cle tend to play whenever and wherever. In front of the Rock Hall? In a basement or at a shitty east bank club? Fuck it! Beer equals a band showing up and playing. I know from experience. Both of my old bands played all of the time regardless of what was around the bend. In the end it's the reason both Amps II Eleven and, the often overlooked, Southern Trespass ate it so early. How many times could you put up with seeing us in a given week? After a year or two the answer was zero... unless it was free or there was a keg involved.
Flipping the coin, I love the fact that I can look in the papers and see that This Moment or Nunslaughter (or the two together!) are playing on any given Wednesday. It's one of the stronger legs of the scene that bands can play anywhere and with anyone because it's all in the family. Some places 'get it': the Happy Dog probably doesn’t care if you played at Now That's Class two days before a show there, they just want your friends to buy four more rounds of High Life and Black Velvet. But someone is always looking at a picture beyond beer sales. Like it or not and, I know, it's real hard to like.
I don't know what I would do in this climate if I were so lucky to be in a band in Cleveland. I'd probably sign the contract and then play shows in Akron or under the radar in Cleveland. But maybe I'd be smart and avoid the Jigsaws cartel all together. What started as a fresh breath of air seems to be growing into another gnarly infection on what was becoming such a nicely tamed STD (I'm pretty sure I am talking about the music scene). Too much power and too much apathy turned into a little mess.
I know this is no ones fault, really. I'm not trying to be democratic but it's not like this type of stuff comes with EVERY show. It's only here and there. Still, it's something to think about if your in a band. Do you deal with it and sit out for a few weeks and bank on your gig being really killer because everyone in Cleveland has been sitting around with their dicks in their hands waiting for the show or do you look to bands past and do it your fucking self by booking a show at the local dive where your happy with the free beer and the local turn out? Man, don't ask me... I live in California.
What a weird situation y'all have gotten yourself into. Thank the dudes and babes at Now That's Class for saving things for now. Imagine what would happened if they made you sign a contract saying you wouldn’t have casual sex for 40 days after a black out hook up in their bar. Most of you could not handle that and then you would have to be prosecuted like so many bands and tramps before you.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I’m going to keep on with this video idea. Visual art is a real medium, right? It’s something people do, a way people express emotion and shit. Posting videos online is just as artistic as anything else anyone is doing as far as I can tell.
Well fuck it, dude. The video below is a good one, even if it's not being shown in some West Hollywood shithole. If you read Deadtown you probably know that those weird, weird guys in This Moment in Black History stayed at my place in Los Angeles for a few days way back in the year 2007. Maybe it was for more than a few days or… maybe... it was only for a day or two that felt like a month or so.
While they were here they filled my heart with a lot of Cleveland awe. It’s true that when you see things through someone else’s eyes it is totally different. Alone, I may have not thought twice about the burrito choices in Silverlake and how they each differ in little ways. And there is NO way I would have asked Patricia Arquette for weed under ANY other circumstance.
Somehow, between cliché Los Angeles shit like that, they played a bunch of shows. It's sad but I only took video at the Spaceland gig. Man, that was awkward. TMIBH played first and real early. They were great but the crowd was busy waiting for the band in bell bottoms to play so they were, of course, real busy. Too busy to see that their heads were being beaten in by one of the most progressive punk bands to ever play that place on a Monday night.
This song was recorded either just before or just after Chris spilled a drink on some kid who was being a little too loud considering he wasn’t from a 216 or 440 area code. I don't remember who talked shit first but it ended up in a wall of Cleveland dudes standing by the stage as the non Clevelander tried to figure out what to do next. He ended up leaving during the next tune. Something special. A little us versus them and I wish it was all captured for prosperity or to use against the motor mouth as proof he’s a prick in case we run into each other again. I do have this funny rebutal from Chris:
A sign of a real good band (or one used to shit talking jobbers) is the ability to bounce back and rip it up. Proof:
Monday, August 18, 2008
Not having anything poignant to write I chose to let movement and technology do the wording for me. So I started a You Tube account and added some Cleveland rock and roll to it that comes directly from my home video library. I’m starting it off accordingly: with my band Amps II Eleven. See below.
If you have some rad Cle videos you want to let me post, send them along dude. I might not post it but no one might be reading this to begin with so I’m taking a chance, now it’s your turn.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Man, the Tower is looking great. I mean that. I don’t know why I feel that way, maybe it’s all the bizarre shit drawn on the walls that make the barren room feel a little less like a squat and more like a drunken punk kids first apartment. Or maybe it was all the young tail that was there the night that the Dimeras were playing last week. Yup, probably the girls. I can't help wondering where they all parked, I rolled in with two other guys and we were all cracking jokes about how we were going to die to ease the tension from our real worries of getting stabbed in the beer store down the street.
No matter what the decor looked like or how many unapproachable were in attendance, the Dimeras still tore it down. I had caught them once before over the Christmas season at the Death Sweats show when they were playing under a different name and I’ve gotta say there’s been a progression. They provide nothing fancy but enough quickness and snot that they sound like The Stitches shit faced off a twelver of Commodore Perry. In good faith I slammed a beer per song and it just made the whole thing better. I don’t know a single song title or how many tunes they played but I can go on record by saying that none of that matters. It was Cleveland punk and that’s a welcome gift. Shades of the TKO’s and Pagans and scary enough to go head to head with any band coming through Now That’s Class. They’re playing with King Kahn and the Shrines which makes good sense but these guys could be the perfect opening match for a night with the Spits too.
Good shit for a hot summer night. That twelve pack of Budweiser that I shared with Brad Thrasher was gone before I knew it. I was swaggering in the back lot as people pissed on a yellow school bus. I always forget that this is what July is supposed to be built around; beer, broads and bands. Pardon me for being so jerky.
This is a bad show review but, forgive me, I was loaded and it was over a week ago. I’m finding the right places and the right bands in Los Angeles but nothing comes close to shows like this. Cleveland summers and the burn out bands that come with it are a delicacy that the tourism board needs to take heed of.
Some dude played afterward who wore a fucked up bunny mask, or so I kind of remember. Not bad but my head was spinning and it was time to leave before things got blurry. The next night I drank dollar beers at Johnny Malloy’s and I thanked God.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
While I was in town for the Amps II Eleven shows I learned to reconnect with friends. All it takes is beer and loud guitars. Maybe some dry ice in a plastic bottle creating an H-100 worthy bang. Or a BBQ… or whatever. I also learned that you don’t have to do everything to have fun. Lunch at Sokolowski’s and a beer at Johnny Malloy’s are worth the flight across the country. $1 draughts? Holy shit! Buy one get one burgers? Four please.
Why do you suck me in time and again, Miss Cleveland. I’m not worthy of your rusted touch but I always come back for another case of lock jaw.
I met a model from Shaker who was on my flights back. She used to work in New York City and now lives in Beverly Hills but she still comes home for the fourth of July. That’s like the article my mom cut out for me about how Drew Carey still goes to the same pizza place in Parma whenever he’s there to grab a pitcher and a pie. That’s her calling to them just like me.
This is the precursor to some live reviews I am going to spit at you and some general shit I might write in the next couple of days as I drink pricey beer in my pricey apartment that smells like rotten pricey turkey that I have had in the refrigerator since October.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Along our journey we tried repeatedly to score that hot DJ E-V mix tape with ‘Bitch I’m From Cleveland’ on it. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself the honor of searching it out online. I can’t seem to download it but you can hear it on some sites buried deep into Google libraries. The big time ‘Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland’ shout part is worth you’re time alone and it will surely be shouted from your drunken lips when Browns season starts again. If any one reading this has it: send it to me, please.
We did end up copping a Ray Cash record that was mind blowing in its own 216 fashion. If Hip Hop was not a dying art, this guy would be popping off past Superior. Some of the beats were fluffy and main stream but anyone that reps Cleveland so hard is talented in my mind. I guess it’s Cleveland karma to be so good when no else is paying attention. But, Ray, we hear your rhymes and we like them. Keep finding ways to reference Cleveland and, one day, you will be signing posters at Tower City before Cavs just like Bone Thugs.
The internet is cooler than blogs, I guess. Finding new local music without leaving the house is great and so is reconnecting with the songs you had forgotten (which might be better than any of the songs you heard in the time that past).
And finding the Mormons 7” at two-thirty in the morning pacific time is a whole different story. The ending was a happy one, I didn’t have a hangover AND I can listen to ‘Your Shit’ any time I please.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I worked at a party over the weekend where I checked ID’s for an hour. It was during this time that I held another persons Ohio drivers license in my hand, some dude from Lakewood. We got stoked when we found out that we were both born in Fairview Hospital. A little thing like that and it made my night. After that I got on a shuttle bus that had puke all over the floor which reminded me of the bars in Lakewood.
The drive home today further pounded some homesick blues into me. I saw what looked like a grey cloud and I seriously pined for a little spring shower. Then I got the text messages about the Cavalier win, one after another, each asking if I had watched the game. This made me pine not for the showers but those Lakewood bars I mentioned.
I’m a rambling man today and this post means nothing of music but I just paced my apartment for an hour thinking about how if I was back in the Midwest it would be entirely appropriate for me to be real, real drunk at BW3 all day long. I don’t know what it is but even a supposed musical mecca can not take the Cleveland snide out of me. I think we own the right to feel above anything and everything. Oh and I really dislike Portishead and any and all DJs. I found this out the hard way by going to the valley of death.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Speaking of reunions (there has to be a reason to write, right?) there are a slew of them coming together. The Spitfire is playing host to that band that used to be young, fashionable and good-looking, The A-10’s. In case you didn’t know, their hopelessly awesome guitar player Adam lives out here (I just got back from hanging out at a Muay Thai fight with him). Every year he finds the time to fly out to Cle and play a reunion show. Not that the world is begging for it but it’s cool all the same. So mark down the date, May 30th 2008. It’ll be soaked with booze and will remind you of the Five O’clock in 2002.
I already told you about the big Face Value reunion booked at Now That’s Class a few posts back. Well it just got radder. Upstab is on the bill now. In case you didn’t know, their hopelessly bad ass singer Chris lives in Arizona which is not too far from here. His big brother Tony is turning forty on July 5th 2008 and he’s doing the right thing by flying home and getting Upstab together to celebrate with blood shed and swear words. Upstab was one of the better hardcore bands to come out of the post Nine Shocks/Puncture Wound/H-100s world of Cleveland pummelage. Chris is a maniac and I can’t wait to see these guys again.
My old band Amps II Eleven is going to be there too. You’re friends only get old once and I want to be there for it, so I am boarding an airplane and we’re collectively getting the band back together. It’s the original lineup too. Not to discredit all the amazing people who joined Amps after Steve and Attila left but nothing could ever match the synergy that was there when the first five dudes were together. I don’t want to self promote too much but it’s going to be killer. A zombie band, maybe, but everyone loves the living dead if only for a night.
What other bands should (could) reunite? In Cleveland the answer is too many. The life span of a band in Cle is short and, usually, it’s only the people who live there that take any notice. Right now I know I can rattle off a laundry list of bands I’d like to see play again and I wouldn’t have to go back more than a year or two. Giant Eagle, GC5 (honorary Clevelanders), Stepsister, Disengage. That lineup alone would keep me in good spirits for the rest of the year.
The band I would most like to reanimate from the Cleveland underground is a strange one. It is not the Dead Boys, Rocket from the Tombs or Death of Samantha. Far from it, dude. I, in my great wisdom, would get the Mormons back together, in all of their snotty teenage selves, for one more show and one more stuffed animal. Weird choice, I admit, but I ask you, who would you choose?
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I dream of a lot of things that I want in this life. Another shot at becoming a professional wrestler, an active sex life with Jewel Kilcher, lots of money. None of that stuff is really reasonable anymore; I’m twenty-eight with weak knees… Jewel dates a cowboy. But I would also like some small stuff, like a big library of books about Cleveland. This I think I can afford and I can take time nurturing it and laughing at my friends who know little to nothing about the evolution of WMMS or the history of Brecksville. I started the library about a year ago with Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories by Carlo Wolff and I have been putting off writing a review of it ever since. I even wrote a very vulgar note telling myself to do so but it didn’t work. So, I’m doing it now, from Los Angeles.
The cover of this book alone should have your coffee table salivating, it’s yellow and kinda ugly with images of Stiv Bators, the Agora, and Daffy Dan. Throw in a few celebs like Big Chuck and Little John and this would have been worthy of framing. Speaking of that old man with a beard, Daffy Dan wrote the foreword recounting how rock and t-shirts changed his life and that’s a story of a true Cleveland miracle. The DD is synonymous with drug and rock culture in 1970s/1980s Cleveland so who better to start a book that walks us through a hazy couple of decades?
Memories starts at the beginning with WHK radio and gets us to the mushroom logo days of ‘MMS, Beatlemania and Springsteenia quickly. It’s done in the same style as Please Kill Me and American Hardcore; the book is arranged with clusters of quotes and memories from the people who lived the rock scene in Cleveland. Fans, musicians and journalists, everyone who can chip in does.
The logos and ticket stubs that Wolff unearthed are even more powerful than a lot of the stories; CCR and Booker T at Public Hall, James Taylor opening for the Who, T Rex at the Yorktown Theatre in scenic Parma. Cue Archie Bunker with his wise words about 'the days.'
The punk stuff is pretty great too. I can only image what it was like to walk into Melody Lane or the Drome to pick up a Pagans record but now I can at least look at the ads those places used to run. There are flyers from shows at places like The Mistake and a benefit for Cle magazine with Pere Ubu playing in a spot called Real World Nite Club on Detroit in 'Lako' (amazing). There could be more about the 70s punk scene but, more over, there could have been anything at all about the eighties scene, it’s all together forgotten. But I guess Wolff had to mention the Agora, Jane Scott and Wild Horses (which he does and that’s fine). The price of the book is almost paid in full by the ticket stub from a December 26, 1977 show at the Agora; Dead Boys and Devo.
Cleveland’s Christ child, Michael Stanley, gives his ten cents through out. Cyrus Erie are his 8th most fave northeast Ohio band. Did you know that? Michael Norman of the PD chimes in with a somewhat hipper opinion; in a list of his favorite songs from the area “It’s Cold Outside” by the Choir comes in at number three (right behind “Ain’t it Fun”).
You’re probably bound to learn something about Cleveland’s musical history here. If not, the pictures are fun and maybe you don’t even need to read the whole thing if that’s what brings you to the party. I'm just glad that my library has begun. I have six or seven other books about the city scattered around my apartment. Maybe some day I will get around to reading all of them but writing about them is probably a lost cause.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
What a great idea! Man, I miss not being able to go outside, it lets you be real, real creative. I hope the summer never comes to you, Ohio. Weirdness this good should last all year long.
For real information straight from those who thunk it, check out the Cleveland Lottery-League blog! Blogs are creative too.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
The Free Times are pushing their faves right now. It's the same old list with one or two note able additions. If you wanted my two cents, it would be to vote for those note able additions. Namely rippers Cheap Tragedies in the category of 'Best Hardcore' and Bim from This Moment as the 'Best Drummer.' Why Erba has again been denied a nod for his bass playing is still a "Best Kept Secret' and a 'Best Metal' with no Insurrect or Skeleton Witch (they did live in Cle for a bit) is just not Metal at all.
It was nice to see Coffinberry again listed among the cities better Indie bands but it's in y'alls hands to make sure they win it this year. I voted. I did my part. This is democracy in it's most retarded and unneeded form. Take advantage. Make sure your musician friends get those coveted drink tickets!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Friday, January 4, 2008
The holidays always bring out the best in rock and roll people. Acquaintances are best friends when you have a twelve pack and a lot of feedback. People hook up. No one regrets a thing until the new year and that's like a week away.
My Christmas gift from Cleveland was the Deathers. I am a big fan of both Jae and Bim. I have written extensively about Jae and his weirdo projects over the past year or so(well, kind of. two pieces for Scene which is one more than I have done about anyone else). And Bim... we got to know each other a little too well a few weeks back. So it needs not to be said that I was very intrigued when I found out over the summer that they were in bed together (musically) and I was very bummed out that I was moving away from such a an odd couple (musically).
Well the shit was not all that odd, really. Pummeling, maybe? Disruptive, for sure. A rollicking drum roll pushed all of us in front into a mess of beer and kicks to the shins and it pressed a wall of noisy hardcore down everyone else's throats. Jae has come to life as a singer within the open field that is the Deathers. Not that Self Destruct Button was not a candy store of creative freedom but here the Deathers give a little bit of rock for the dude to run with. They are really solid for a group of total fuck ups and the crowd reacts just like a group of fuck-up friends should: by taking to the air, giving piggy-back rides through a mist of Black Label and chanting their little hearts out.
"Mosh-Part! Mosh-Part!" being a true revelation.
Sometimes Cleveland creates music that makes me wonder if the old saying about us living a few decades in the past is true. I guess there's truth in everything but if you can forgive the kid on Detroit Road for still wearing his Korn shirt and tilt your ear toward The Deathers, you will discover that being stuck in some parts of history is fantastic. I'm talking about a mix of eighties heavy weights like Black Flag and Cleveland busters The Dark. Maybe some early ninties DC and a lot of mistakes put to bed. The whole potion is toxic and I feel like I could carve their name into my desk, (sigh) if only it was still a few decades ago.
Go see them, please. There's nothing better for you to be doing, anyway. And don't be so douchey, like me. Go to the Tower because those people know how to live.