Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Review: Coffinberry S/T... my first stab

A new Coffinberry release is like an unexpected gift from a loved one: I don’t have any expectations but any time they show me how much they care is greatly appreciated. Needless to say I was swooning when I opened my mailbox to find their brand new self-released, self-titled record inside. I felt like making snow angels in a giant field of dandy lions (or lifting weights and pounding beers if that makes me more of a man.)

These guys have been the best of the strong hold bands in Cleveland for the better part of the past decade. What that means is that they have taken over the reigns from bands like the H-100s, TKOs and Cobra Verde. A workhorse to say the least, Coffinberry has probably amassed enough tunes to satisfy the local music nerds for generations to come. So why, oh why, has their tenacity and pure song writing genius not transferred outside of Cleveland? I have no conclusive answer to that question. America is asleep and it’s sad; maybe this new record can cure the collective coma the rest of the nation seems to be in.

After a brief stint with Morphius Records, Coffinberry has decided to go it alone releasing this LP (that means long-player…it’s a term used to describe 12” vinyl records which is how this album is being released) on their own imprint Central Command Center Records. CCC is best known for their uber awesome collection of cassette tapes (Dimeras, Death Sweats) and maybe it was their lack of knowledge in other more progressive musical formats that led them to co-release with the Collectible Escalators label (home to local favorites Machine Go Boom.) Label woes aside, it’s a great treat to hear the long awaited follow up to what may be a bona fide legendary record, God Damn Dogs.

The Cross brothers are a formable tag-team, Nick continues to hone his vocal prowess on the kicker ‘Lorena’ where he sounds like he is a non-goof King of Leon, one that could easily drink the amount of bourbon as the others claim. His older brother Tony continues to be the back-bone of the band as the one-two punch of his drum work along with his siblings song-writing are comparable to a Cleveland Oasis. Don’t throw your empty bottle of Straub at me for writing such a garbage comparison but what is simple is true.

‘New Color’ expands the bands work by adding a piano and harmonica into the mix, all together it’s like Crimpshrine and Neil Young doing a summer duet. The band is slowing things down in comparison to God Dam Dogs which was a record that almost dared the indie rock world to try and turn their backs on Coffinberry. Full of pop laden anthems and radio ready, reflective life lessons, GDD was an A&R reps wet dream. This record sounds like a defiant step forward and beyond, more country than pop and more the result of a night of bong rips than pints of British ale.

‘Glassy Shiny Sun’ is a beautiful reaction to what national music media calls alt-country; sweet guitar strumming and a young, excited tone from Nick comes together to rival most of the herald My Morning Jackets latest work. Coffinberry is easing their way into a world that few local Cle bands have ever set foot one into and they are doing it their way which is to say wonderfully.

‘Little Machine’ may be the hit that these guys have seemingly been avoiding for the past few years. It’s exciting and addictive, full of summer fun and maybe a little of autumn regrets. I don’t’ know, is this indie rock, college rock or just plain kick-ass rock and roll?
The answer avoids me as ‘The Vapors’ slowly drags my spirit away. With tokens of the aforementioned MMJ’s most depressing songs and Tom Waits circus world undertones, this song is a kick in the mouth at the end of a record that still makes me wonder: is this the best they have? If it is, that is a feat that deserves the utmost praise and respect and, if not, then I am finding God and repenting because I never saw something this good in Cleveland’s future.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Welcome to Cleveland Big Cactus!

I’m thankful that I was not pre-mature in welcoming Shaq to the city of Cleveland. The news broke late last night, he is on his way for better or worse. I stand by my remarks that Shaquille O’Neil will make a fine Clevelander even if he disappoints on the court. Be it scandal or hilarity, Shaq will bring some much needed water cooler worthy antics to a city that has had only one real A-list celeb for far too long (no offense King, you’ll always be our favorite).

So break out the confetti and champagne; there’s a new neighbor that needs to be welcomed to Cleveland in style.

And no one has even mentioned all the Hip Hop cuts Joe Smith and Shaq can cut together. A new Cleveland Classic is on the cusp of being born in some fashion, I can feel it in the air.

See you soon, Shaquille.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

World Wide Wonderful Episode I : My Friend Cleveland

I have always wished that there was a community of cool Cleveland music webpage’s that I could drool over each morning and being in Los Angeles only magnifies how little access I have to the city. Of course there are the shinning stars: Clepunk for example has been a great resource for those wanting to know more about the Cleveland punk scene or to altogether reconnect with it. It hasn’t changed much over the years but the message board remains a place for old and young wastoids alike to come together to discuss old Starvation Army and Floyd Band shows. And no one here is afraid to get into catty internet name calling which is a huge plus.

Message boards are pretty much key to making a local website work. I know this blog is lacking without one; where is a guy supposed to talk shit and alter porn photos? That sort of stuff is really the drawing factor to My Friend Cleveland.

I will be the first to admit that I should have done my homework and found out who is behind this website and what their history is; but, let’s be honest, I am not going to go that far. I have, though, been a transient visitor for the past couple of years but I usually pass up the blog entries and head straight for the ‘board of all boards’.

There’s not a ton of people posting here but you have some key figures writing weekly and it’s an A-list of local wingnut musicians and more than a few professional barfly. It’s pretty rad that amid the flyers and let-you-in-on-it posts there are gems about the history of .10 cent beer night (complete with highlights from this years reenactment), photos from the Romantic Getaway fest and a thread posted by a dude in need of a tap for his keg of beer.

Unfortunately the main page acts primarily as a gateway to the board; it’s barely been touched since the new year and what few updates we've been given are more personal than anything. There are some high-techy bits though: it would be fool hardy of me not to mention the sweet Vietnam Werewolf video posted in March. This is another band I feel really angry about missing out on. Honestly I have heard very little of them and here I feel a strange Fifteen vibe coming from their stage show. There are beers being held high as they tear through a bouncy punk tune that brings to mind Berkeley punk, mid-90s. Is that way far off or totally right on? You tell me but don’t post any fucked up altered pics of me in a hot tub with rr (that’s an internet message board abbreviation, get used to it).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Enter the Shaq: future Cleveland celeb?

So it was Superman that helped to shut us out of this years NBA Finals and now it is supposedly the OG Superman that can help lead us to the title next year. Sure it’s an ironic twist of fate and it’s probably not at all a sure thing in the eyes of realistic sports fans but getting Shaquille O’Neal to put on a Cavaliers jersey is certainly a fun prospect.

The bottom line is that Cleveland needs another superstar. The questions centering around whether or not Lebron can ‘single handedly’ carry us to a championship have traditionally been a little weak; he’s always had a little help be it the traded Damon Jones hitting clinch shots or Big Z being one of the most consistent big men in basketball (not to mention the influx of top-notch players over the past two years). But what we have in tenacity and vigor we lack in All-Star caliber basketball performers. Enter Shaq Fu, the Diesel, the Big Shaqtus. If anything ticket sales go through the roof and all eyes are again on us (plus the endless nicknames are a marketing dream come true.)

The city can’t loose. Worst case scenario is the old man decides to retire in a year and we only pay that big time $20 million dollar sum once (and hopefully LBJ gets his ring out of it). Best case scenario is something a little more interesting.

Cleveland is a town that absolutely thrives on its local celebrities. Sports heroes abound even when they would be bench warmers elsewhere (it was just two years ago we all rallied behind Larry Hughes as a Cavs starter), owners of furniture stores have their own cult following, midget jewelry hawkers are one step away from God status among a population that can barely afford frozen .99 cent spring rolls at the Dealz store in Steelyard Commons. So isn’t a guy with a laughable Hip Hop career, a history as a reserve member of the LAPD and a B-movie star with films in the bag where he plays a fucking genie worth all of Cleveland’s mocking and scrutinizing for years to come?

Yes. Yes he is worth our mockery. I truly believe that Shaq would make an extraordinary Clevelander. Think of the laughs and You Tube memories he can assist us with. He’s a walking punch line, he probably gets the joke if his bizarre dance-offs with Lebron at the All-Stare weekends are any sort of proof and he has four (god damn…four) NBA titles under his increasingly large belt.

Let me be the first, Mr. O’Neal, to prematurely welcome you to our fair city. And I truly hope that, in your stay here, you settle into a life of local commercials, auto show autograph sessions and a place in the Cleveland Hall of Fame; right between Mark Norton and Little John. After all, big man, you will deserve it if you get us past Superman next year.

P.S. In the midst of two blogs ago I call no curse. If we land another Shawn Kemp instead of the Big Galactus... it's not the Deadtown Curse: blame Mr. Ferry not Mr. Chernus (the same goes if Shaq disappoints; I'm not putting my neck on any line.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Song in Words II

Four months ago I wrote a piece where I checked in on some of my favorite Cleveland bands via their myspace pages (a lame gen-now idea but it saved any real thinking on my part). One song was reviewed and it was a nice way for me to play check up on everyone since I have been a poor study of Cleveland rock for the past year. Now I am taking that idea and making it into a full fledged Deadtown Cleveland segment or reoccurring blog if you will (insert audio of Dusty Rhodes saying that last bit) topic much like Cle Food Fetish or the beloved Cleveland Classic.

This time around I decided to change the gimmick a little. Instead of checking on bands that I know and hold dear to my rotten heart I am going to be stopping by myspace pages of bands I have… (or dah, dah, dah!) NEVER HEARD! That’s right; it’s an honest to God fact that there are bands in Cleveland that I have never been privy to in an audio type of way. Now this is not to say that these bands are off my radar: far from it, the bands below are actually ones that I put into Google searches this afternoon because I have been meaning to listen to them for months and, in some cases, f’n years.

Well… let’s be off on this trademarked voyage.

Gunfire! Getdown!
Girl Pile

My first impression was simply, holy shit, these guys have a dumb name. And it’s undeniably true; it’s atrocious. I thought it would be ‘punk n roll’, dumb and plain. Oh well, it kind of is except that it owns pretty hard. How can that be Mr Chernus? Well dumb and plain is kind of what all rock and roll is when taken to its barest of elements, asshole. ‘Girl Pile’ reminds me of the early 2000’s when Cleveland was a greasy mess of drunk twenty-something’s getting into bad trouble. All those aforementioned kids are listening to indie rock now and living east of Lakewood but that doesn’t matter worth a fuck to G.G. This song drives all night with a catchy refrain, powerhouse riffing and a strange resemblance to those forgotten Vacancies gems (before that full length came out; you know, when all you knew was the live stuff). Good tune to play at parties where gunfire has no chance to happen and the only thing you’re getting down with is this LP and a twelve of Burning River. (For fans of getting drunk and Parma).

Lick the Blade
Sea of Apathy

My first impression was simply, holy shit, these guys have an amazing name. And it’s undeniably true; it’s fucking cool. Lick the Blade offer up a very commendable classic-metal track that conjures eighties Maiden as easily as the souls of ten witches and gypsy thieves; for real. So maybe it’s not anything new or even anything original, fuck me, this would barely sound new or original the year I was born but it’s still perfect for the jukebox at the Jigsaw (if someone would just resurrect that place). Ted Anderson spins a righteous tale here with ample shout outs given to those ever evil shores. I can imagine that this dude, uninhibited by instrument, is all over the place at a live gig; he better be or else Dio would tell that joke about wanting his voice back. (For fans of Maiden (I already said it), Soulless and Nunslaughter).

The Hot Rails

These guys have been tearing it up in Cleveland pretty hard or so I’ve been told once or twice. I was hesitant to listen to them because, for the longest time, I thought it was a bunch of girls and, well you know, that would probably end up being bad. I was kind of surprised to see this is my old buddy Charlie Druesedow’s (lead drums and ex-everything) band and, even weirder, the easiest nomination for best Post-Sharkey, Ken Janssen is the singer (ex-Vista Cruisers). All put together it kind of sounds like Bad Wizard which is bitter sweet: it’s the perfect party band stuff but these guys could probably have done something a little better. But let’s be fair, ‘Ripper’ does just that; Janssen holds court with maybe the best drunken howl in Clevo and I know he can back that shit up on stage or in a bar fight. Druesedow remains a solid rock drummer, keeping this whole sinking ship of Straub and thin lines of blow together. ‘You want to go for a ride/you better give it up/I’m going to live it up.’ Good enough for a Cleveland summer but it might not keep you warm all winter. (For fans of Stepsister, Annihilation Time and beer).

Brian Straw

I’ve known Brian through dealing with the Beachland and general Cleveland this-and-that for a very long while but I have never gone to see the guy play and here I sit kinda kicking myself for it. Yeah, yeah—the dude plays soft, folk stuff and I am an unabashed lover of all things stupid and metallic—but there is a soft spot in this sarcastic soul… shit, I wrote the word soul just now with no intention of tying Satan or sacrifice into it. I tried out all four songs offered on his page which is against the rules I just now put upon myself (the other bands had to deal with the first thoughts I had on the first song I ever heard by them) and this was, admittedly the one that I liked most. Brian has a voice my man, it’s marketable to all the distressed girls that get forced into seeing Hot Rails by their drunk bfs (that means boyfriends); dark, melancholy and distressed in it’s on right. The drums plod along here with the soft strumming and eerie vocal melody making me think it’s like a Goth Fleet Foxes or maybe some other indie rock band that I’m too metal to reference. Brian Straw might be the perfect antidote to people who are sick of the type of bands I wrote about above or just another day at Arabica for the rest of you. (For fans of coffee, poetry, autumn and stuff like that).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sports Illustrated Curse or the Cleveland Curse?

The sports illustrated curse. Is it true? Well, a lot of Cleveland sports fans are probably holding on to this mystery as a way to cope with the horror of lasts week’s final defeat. I’ve had some time to think about it and I still don’t know how I feel. Surely it’s a weak excuse but there is simply no other town in America that has more reason to make excuse than Cleveland.

It took me a few days to even go online and look at what the Cle press was saying about the Cavaliers loss to Orlando in game six. I come from a devout Cavs family; my mother used to work for the organization during the miracle at Richfield era, I’ve spent countless nights at both the Coliseum and Q where I either cheered or stifled tears and many an obscenity. Maybe all of those years of heartbreak should have knolled the pain I would eventually feel time and time again. But, no, there is no way to express the disappointment.

I wanted to call my mom right away and hear her side of things but it took me days to do so. I just could not handle her inevitable response of pure heartbreak. When people in California gave me their deepest sympathies, I recoiled from them or offered weak rebuttals to the extent of “I’m trying not to think too much about it”, which was bullshit: it’s all I could think about.

The most powerful thing I could find to say to my Cleveland friends was/is “I am so sick of having a ‘there’s always next season’ season.”

The article in question was by an ex-Clevelander such as myself, Joe Posnanski. He seems like a genuine guy: I’ve been on his website and he has a true love for sports and Cleveland (he goes as far as to call it beautiful), he’s a fellow journalist and his name sounds Polish or German enough to be a regular at Slyman’s on Saint Claire. If you don’t own a copy I feel bad for you as it’s a collector’s item of Cleveland sports history. And that is what our Cavaliers season of 2008/2009 has sadly become, curse or not.


Time for an honest gut check: I had to stifle those familiar tears as I read the article. It was written from the point of view of a fan… a Cleveland sports fan that has seen and felt all the trials and tribulations that you and I have witnessed (even before that word became a trademark for our most impressive superstar). Throughout the piece local working man after local working man pleads their case for Posnanski to make sure that his work would not land on the cover of SI; it’s an omen, bad luck, KARMA MAN! It’s a plead he understands but ultimately uses to bookend his piece with an editors note to go ahead and put Cleveland on the cover of the legendary sports magazine because, as we all truly know, that is where these athletes have always deserved to be (the shot, the drive, the sweep and all).

Since the 5.25.09 issue hit the newsstands and was delivered to homes and business across the world the number one team in the National Basketball Association went on to lose four of six games to the third seated team in the eastern conference. Many in Cleveland have let the stifled tears fall, others lost hope altogether and, elsewhere, Posnanski has received an endless tirade of hate mail from the ever blood thirsty Cleveland sports fanatics. Can I blame them? Oh, absolutely not… as a once Cleveland native and an admitted admirer of the city, he should have known better.

Now that all is said and done, Lebrons magnificent finish in game two becoming a lost memory, it’s hard to really place blame on a writer who was only trying to let the rest of the world know how powerful a part of day-to-day life professional sports are to the average Clevelander. Maybe there is a curse but I don’t think it has anything to do with, arguably, the greatest athlete alive getting another cover in the most coveted sports rag of all time.

The curse may lie in our hands as we, the fans, have always been turncoats at best. It is true that no one has ever thrown bottles on the court after Lebron and company lost a game but the chorus of boo’s that I have heard after simply missed free-throws (and not game clinchers by any means) on our own home court are easily part of any long term ills that have befallen our franchise teams.

I’m not shedding any light or forecasting a brighter future. I’m simply upset and hopefully forgivably so. I wish the best for all Cleveland athletes and hopefully, one day, seeing one of our beloved stars on the cover of Sports Illustrated will be just another good omen of an appending championship won.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

All Hail Breaks Loose: Midnight Comes to Town

For the first time in over a year I got to leave my apartment and see some Cleveland rock and roll up close and personal. Try not to laugh at my child like excitement but it was like going to see Wrestlemania or Jewel Kilcher in concert (both things I have done on multiple occasions so I know what I am talking about.) Midnight, my favorite Cleveland metal maniacs, rolled through town for a two night stand of evil deeds last week… it was a breath of putrid, polluted air.

Midnight always puts on a great show in Cle; between the whip wielding broads, broken glass and drunken mosh pits you are bound to leave swimming in a pool of vomit and blood (hopefully not just your own). I was hoping for more of the same when I caught them in Long Beach but I was really just happy to imagine that I was at Now That’s Class for one night.

I started off in good Ohio fashion by quickly draining a forty of beer before I was picked up for the trip to Long Beach which is easily the closest assimilate to my beloved Lakewood that I have found near Los Angeles. Once I got there I was pleasantly pleased to see Midnights resident shredder Sean nursing a pint of beer with a big Parma grin on his face. Man, I miss the shitty things we all used to get into ‘back in the day’. The fact that he was driving across the country playing what may be the least accessible Metal coming out of Cleveland further drove some nostalgic giddiness through me.

What made the night better; it was a family affair as my good buddy Ryan Harkins was playing in his stellar stoner-black metal band Sumerian Axe. Harkins is a Cleveland legend in his own right if only in my head and history: he played bass in my first band See World, drums in my baby Amps II Eleven and put an ugly stamp on Cleveland garage rock while playing in the Death Sweats.

Sumerian Axe is the only band in LA that sounds like they are from Cleveland. It’s gritty, funny, riffing and kind of tongue-in-cheek. Harkins is a formidable front man in the effect that you never know if he’s going to hurt you or himself at any given moment. I like that sort of thing (even though, at this stage in the game, I find myself ever farther in the back of the room during these types of shows). The songs are full of stoner rock abandon and Venom-esque vocals; the only problem here is that they sound a little too much like Midnight to be a good opening act for Midnight.

That being said Midnight still held their own. The crowd was thick with Mexican metallists and questionable punk kids, all of them a little rowdy but not at all accomplished at making a real-deal Cleveland debacle. Dressed to the nines in trademarked bee keeper masks and ugly tattoos (speaking of Venom… how is it I never noticed Jaime’s tramp stamp that reads ‘I heart Venom’?) the dudes brought their rapid fire assault sans any creepy girls on stage and easily mowed over every ones minds. It was fascinating to find out how far reaching their music has become as the crowd literally went berserker during the opener ‘Black Rock and Roll’ which seems to be the rally cry for a new generation of bands.

‘All Hail Hell’ is my favorite Midnight cut and it may be their ultimate anthem as nearly everyone in the room raised their fists in the air, calling out the chorus in unison. It’s simple, it’s quirky and probably not really all that evil but it works on a level that reaches us metal heads from the north coast to the west coast. And it was really all I came for; after they played that song I wandered to the beer patio to chug Jim Beam out of a plastic bottle.

I hope Midnight curates an even greater army of fuckups all over the world. They are on the cusp of becoming something special; maybe not a Metallica but they could at least be an Armored Saint. In the meantime I am only too happy to watch Sumerian Axe build its own legion of non-Cle kids who have never seen something like Harkins crowd surfing during a show in a party bus (that was the week before this show).

I have a dream, a noble, selfless dream. A dream that one day Long Beach will be rechristened Parma II. This time I’ll just watch from the back of the room as it slowly gets burned down.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cle Food Fetish Vol II

Major League is an amazing movie. American Splendor painting an even prettier picture of our home. That said the entertainment industry does not always shine a light on Cleveland. Hell the two movies I mentioned are basically an outside joke on the town; we’re poor, talent less and we complain endlessly. But they also show that we have moxie and work ethic to spare.

Arguably the best television show or movie ever based on Cleveland is the No Reservations episode that aired two years ago. Anthony Bourdain is more than a chef, a writer or even my vote for sexiest man; he’s a vanguard, a traveling salesman and a witty motherfucker. His opinions and thoughts should not be just revered but worshiped and studied for generations to come. Maybe you think I’m over exaggerating or in love; maybe you are right on both accounts.

I’ve wanted to write about that episode for a long time but it’s just not timely anymore: like Rolling Stone finally getting around to that Bassholes review.

There was a lot in that episode that I did not know about Cleveland. For starters: who knew that mammoth bookstore was even around let alone that is housed Twinkie filling on draught? Maybe y’all did and I’m just not as great of a Clevelander as I though. And the surfing, casole, Marky Ramone confessing that he could eat “two whole pizzas”? But it’s a vicious cycle, you have to fit into your clothes and write random blogs.

I love No Reservations. I love it enough to actually stop drinking Christmas Ale and get into my brothers high school car (he’s 32) to drive down Memphis to visit the Sausage Shoppe. Remember this part of the show? Tony walks into a little mom and pop joint to sample all sorts of forced meats and pâté? It was awesome and looked delicious and sentimental at the same time.


I visited the shop in question just a few days before Christmas and it was packed. Packed for a small shop full of meat, anyway. There were delicious samples of the aforementioned pâté with crackers sitting on top of a deli case that housed a wet dream of dead animals. Little old ladies pushing me aside so they could purchase the tastes that they have, no doubt, been savoring since their parents first ushered them into this country.

I was in search of some summer sausage to remind me of the endless summer back in California and, more over, all the yuletides past in this great city. I was not disappointed. Every slice of meat I inquired about the men and women behind the meat oasis were proud to let me try. And it was good, my friends. Good to be surrounded by big, juicy meats and people that have spent their life and even generations of lifetimes submerged in this fatty, delicious environment.

Their website ( has coupons to help you through these hard times without hindering your eastern-European tastes for such treats as head cheese and Slovenian sausage (all lean pork with a mild flavor. Call for availability).

While there my head was admittedly swimming; so many colors, flavors and words I had trouble pronouncing. Sadly, I only left with some smoked sausage and some refrigerated smokies which were the perfect gift for my duck hunting, meat loving old-man. He loved the gesture but, next year, Christmas dinner will be amazing if this shoppe has any say in it. Throw that turkey into the Salvation Army bag that has been sitting there for years, we have a loaf of head cheese and ten pounds of holiday kielbasa to get through.

4501 Memphis Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44144-1912
Phone: (216) 351-5213

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Review: Sun God : (S)PAIN

It may be shocking, even orgasmic, to gain the knowledge that I don’t write exclusively for the Deadtown office; I’m actually a celebrated journalist if only in my own and my mothers mind. I’ve been published in weeklies, monthlies and in book form. Yeah, I know, I have impressed you but really I’m actually a struggling wingnut (as Mr. Erba once called me in a letter written in 1996-ish) who, from time to time, pitches a thing or two about local Cleveland music. That’s reason #1 as to why I don’t have a lot of timely reviews on this blog.

But, here and again, I do have a rare chance to wax ever so fucking poetic on something fresh and, well, refreshing. So when I called out to Cleveland in a not-so-overt fashion to send me free music, I was very excited that Sun God rose to the challenge and sent me their new(ish) 7”. I wanted to build a Cle distro and they liked that sentiment; of course I have NO intention on doing so but it shows a sort of local support that I did get free music by just taking the initiative to ask. So this, handful of readers, is my first exclusive.

Sun God
(Pizza Pants Records)

Holy crap, I feel seventeen again.

I dropped down a bunch because I wanted to drive that first sentence into your head. I do… I feel young and a little out of reach of the things I actually have within a hands grasp of now; money, sex, booze and stableness. But, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good feeling to relish in and I’ll tell you why: when I was seventeen I loved music, I loved its surrounding culture and I knew when something was good if not totally fucking killer.

Ever since I found money, sex and especially booze (stableness still avoids me) I have not been able to connect with music the way I had at that age. Sure, I went through a stoner rock phase where songs about drinking, drugging and fucking seemed appropriate. And I have run a gamut of stereotype: vegetarian, straight edge, hardcore, wigger, punk and metalhead. Fuck, I have a Jewel poster on my wall and a James Taylor greatest hits in my closet. But I grew up, or cut my teeth, or learned my way, through and on hardcore. DC, Post, Revelation, Very Distribution, Victory; I’ve got all those catalogs and I still relish how good all of it made me feel. Sun God are, to my ears, the first Cleveland band to rope it all together in an intelligent way without losing the most important part about contemporary music: those lovely hooks.

“(S)pain” is a burner and I know I have used that phrase to an almost freely extent in the past but, trust me, this song could be the start of the best record any old-school HC label put out. Complete with wicked little string slides, the guitar work is taken to over-drive making it a sort of riddle to how the drums even keep time. We have solo this and solo that, it’s always a welcome surprise but the main riff alone is leaving my computer speakers shaking in disbelief. I think I’m hearing this in the vocal: “I don’t need what I don’t see” and it’s nothing short of the truth; I don’t know what these guys are doing to their poor instruments but it’s all sort of all right. A pounding, it’s what both I and computer are taking at one am Pacific Time.

My roommate just left the apartment a while ago but, before he left his graveyard of Pabst cans behind, he summed it up by repeating, over and over, “This shit is awesome.”

Only three songs are humbly given to us here and I’m actually glad for it because it’s the best kind of tease: I’m almost on my proverbial knees begging for a full length with some shitty minimalist artwork. Something I can keep in my collection and pull out in a drunken stupor to happily surprise any record collecting nerd with this pearl out of the Cleveland oyster.

Maybe I’m giving too much credit but in a lake that’s too Erie for it’s own good, we have something that’s pretty special in a throwback that y’all missed kind of sort of way. “Homewrecker” may drive this point home to you with the way the word “time” is drawn out when in reference to it being such a waste. Yeah, you’re on to something, brother. If nothing else, we can all be witness to that, right? And, in context, it’s even more thrilling; post-punk guitar strutting, backup vocals riding a crest and the constant pounding of “what I did was wrong” making us remember the littlest mistake as if it was us getting injured midseason and not Derek Anderson (sorry).

I’ve already written about how much I revere the final song, “Bailin’Out”; reference a few blogs past to know for yourself. Or you can do yourself the favor of buying this record (or do like I did and ASK for it but be sure to return the favor the next time your at Melt by telling the hipster girl next to you how much it rips).

It’s been a while since I have had nothing bad to say about a record from Cleveland or elsewhere, maybe it’s a tribute to how great this release is or it could be a lesson many bands should learn: in this age of kitchen reality shows and three minute pro wrestling matches, just give them what they need, something killer, and then wait and rejoice.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hastily Made Cleveland Blog

I want to preface this diatribe with a note that I am NOT the type of guy who immediately hates on something that explodes into American pop-culture just because it’s the anti-hero type of thing to do. I really can appreciate good comedy or music made for the minds of the mass. It’s all good shit.

That being said: the faux Cleveland tourism video that is literally blowing up on the World Wide Web is shit. It’s the negative spin on the slang word shit: bad, stupid, and hideous; without charm or positive characteristic.

I was going to post the monstrosity in the middle of the rant; it would probably look very professional, even a little like a news clip on Yahoo or MSN. But I decided against it just so I could make sure not to tarnish an otherwise perfect blog. If you’re one of the lucky ones who never had this near minute of cheap shots and bad jokes forwarded to your email, Facebook or Ashley Madison account, it can be found on You Tube and the like but, I’m serious, it’s not worth the time to laugh at the lack of effort.

To sum it up: lame South Park/SNL musical parody voice sings really dumb jokes about visiting Cleveland to see poor people take the bus, someone use a pay phone and to view our ‘two’ buildings. I know it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself but I think, in a town as poor, fat and drunk as Cleveland, the punch lines would be heartier. Sub in Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, et al and the joke is just as foolish (except maybe for Pittsburgh... fucking shit hole).

Maybe the joke is on me and this is a great piece; it’s an ironic interpretation on the decline of Midwestern America. A biased and sad take on one mans home and those desperate souls that share it with him and haunt his dreams.

Or maybe it’s more hipster humor that went over my head and raised my blood pressure. There's not even a quip about the Brownies or the river catching on fire. But that's probably a biased take on my own haunted dream.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Work, Guys! Next Time it's Dread Zeppelin!

It’s not too often that I get to offer up my deepest and hardiest congratulations to my friends on this amazing blog. I’m not knocking my dudes or anything but really who is kidding who? One time I got to give the nod to the Canadian Bad Boy when he ended up on WWE Raw a few years back but that was kind of a once in a lifetime thing that I could not ignore. Really it was a shock; I spent my early twenties training, traveling and feuding in the ring wars of Ohio with CBB and, honestly, I didn’t think either of us had anything other than the opening match at the Moonshine Festival in front of us. He proved me kind of wrong.

Finally (after nearly two years) I have another chance to tell people that I care about and respect that I am proud of them: so congrats and God speed Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival… it’s about time. The weirdest and most creative duo I have ever come across (musically or otherwise) just got home after three days in Vegas opening for Puscifer. Yeah dude, you heard me right, PUSCIFER! Okay, admittedly it’s not like they just got home from touring the UK with, say, Manowar or they cut a deal with some indie label in South Africa but it’s still an accomplishment.

They converted over 6,000 assholes; something only Lebron can accomplish every day.

I always knew that their low-fi garage punk, fifth hand gear and Jesus loving shtick was way too ahead of itself and utterly offensive to remain a Cleveland secret (even though the offensive part does endure it to Cle). It was only a matter of time before they were slugging it out in the parking lots of Warped Tour shows, playing Grammy after-parties or becoming the house band for Conan O’Brian. I know those things seem as unattainable of a dream as sharing a stage with Manowar but I have faith in these guys.

I remember other Cleveland bands getting quick bursts of fame opening for mid-tier acts (Disengage tagging along with Bam Margera is a bad memory) and it usually ends when the shows do. It is what it is: a band opening for a band that everyone is there to see. But I don’t think that’s the case with USGR; they are made from a different stock of sauerkraut and march to the beat of a different bible thumper. Too funny for the American masses, too creative to be restrained in a town like Cleveland and too fucking Cleveland to ever go anywhere else.

Anyway, nice work Brother Ant and Brother Ed. Whenever I’m at a gig, I miss hearing your sweet, sweet gospel when I buy beers in between bands. It always sounded really good to me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This is a Coffinberry Promo Review

This is a Coffinberry Promo
(self released)

In lew of writing a regular album review for Coffinberry, a band whom I consider to be the most underrated in the state of Ohio (and possibly the Midwest as a whole), I am going to review (or sum up) this strange CD that has been sitting in front of my computer for the past month. It’s not a ‘Cleveland Classic’ or even a proper release; it looks to be meant for the ears of a booker or some wing nut at a label but it makes for a nice DIY ‘Best Of’.

The cover art is another stellar mind fuck by local genius Jeremy Jakstas, another underrated Clevelander and one of Clevelanders best flyer and album artists. My favorite part is the vending machine in the drawing which clearly says ‘Pop’ not soda like these western jerk offs insist it’s called.

NOTE: As I play this CD the cockroaches in my apartment are braving the heat and starting to congregate on my desk. The big ones too; there has to be some sort of rock and roll cliché hidden there.

‘Cruise Control Psycho’ is a pop-raucous of an opener, easily one of the most memorable songs from their debut From Now on Now. It’s a good time capsule for where the band stood in 2005: happy, maybe a little in love with each other and full of good faith for what the future was going to bring them. I love how the drum roll in the beginning could have been the start of a steamrolling metal song but, instead, it brings us into a world of indie rock bliss and mentions of a ballerina.

‘Your Comeback’ follows and this one was the best song on the 2006 Sleush cassette, no question. Death Sweats cover it, the dirt balls at NTC know the words and it does a bruising on your heart strings. The riff somehow bounces which typically makes the balls of my feet roll back and forth as the lyrics tell a great little story of a departed couple, the line ‘All of the things you’ll think of/I though them first’ being the snidest comment ever heard in such a sweet tune.

Then ‘Just like the Light through Trees Do’ takes away any of that happiness and love I was talking about. Now we find Coffinberry in a dark place and it sounds fucking nice, like nineties alt-rock could have if the checks had not been so big. Nick Cross’ breaking voice is followed by a lonely guitar as he lets the cripples know where they can stay with (with him).

God Damn Dogs is my favorite Coffinberry release. It’s the record I originally wanted to review for either Scene or Deadtown but I never had the guts (or the words) to pull it off. I understand I keep pressing the word ‘easily’ down your overstuffed throats but I really do think that it is ‘easily’ the coolest rock record to come out of Cleveland in an ‘easy’ decade. On this taste of their recording chops they offer two songs. ‘Bombs and Palm Trees’ is as skuzzy and as weirdly alt-metallic as Sun God but also a taste of what Nirvana might have been like had they been from Snowy Cleveland rather than that coffee stain north of me.

They leave us with ‘Little Child of Dementia’ EASILY the catchiest song you’ve heard in ages. EASILY way better than anything playing on the radio. EASILY a set closer for an opener for, let’s say, U2 or some such gnarly shit. Not that I’m comparing them to those rat bastards, I’m just saying this is the closet thing to break out music heard from Cleveland since the Choir.

I’m not jumping on any local band wagons; I’ve known these guys for years and have always been a big fan. After spending the last year or so working on the other end of the music business it really blows my mind that Coffinberry is not on a label, playing big venues and racking up a lot of mentions in shit rags like Spin or (god forbid) Filter. If that did happen I like to think that they would stay in the same house in the same part of the Cle west side and continue to write the type of music that only people from Cleveland could: music full of pain and heartbreak but created with hope and belief. This is believeland after all and I am pulling for these guys to bring us a title.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Goodbye and Goodluck To You Jigsaw

I got a text the other day from my life-mate Tony Erba. He was just letting me know about some quotes he had in the current issue of Scene. ‘Ha’ I thought, ‘I wonder why the weekly is doing a piece on Beta tapes and/or the history of the beer can.’ So, naturally, I procrastinated and never really read the article. Then I ran across a link to it on a message board and fell face first into some interesting (if not totally foreseeable) news. If you live in Cleveland and read the rag in question, well, you probably know what I’m talking about. For those, like me, not in the Cleveland gossip scene any more I would ask you to sit down because this is not shocking, not amazing but, if nothing else, timely: Jigsaw Entertainment has died.

RIP. And thanks for a whole lot of nothing. I’d say something with a little more color but I don’t wish to upset the widow. I’m looking at you Parma.

D.X. Ferris was given the chance to break out of the confines of local music blurbs and deliver a big-time piece of relevant Cleveland rock journalism; deliver he did. Like SD Jones or Lebron James in the clinch; like I never did. I know this: you should all go out of your way to read it.

I’ve thrown in my long-distance minutes on this subject a few times. I never liked the idea of one little group running four Cle clubs that, love them or hate them, have had storied pasts be it as a favored pub (the Saw), legendary venue (Agora) and famous spots for the local scene (Peabody’s and Hi Fi/Blind Lemon). I can’t imagine the stress involved with maintaining one of these joints: the staffing, bills, food cost and booking alone makes me pine for a valium and bottle of Beam. The fact that this dude who, it’s hard to argue, was an outsider in a members only clubhouse, could think that playing monopoly was a good business move is hard to fathom. I, myself, feel like an outsider these days but I would know enough not to handle a ball covered in grease.

Making bands succumb to selling tickets or other every day antics is one thing that we have all made ourselves come to terms with but bouncing checks to loyal employees, major beer distributors and suppliers of all things electric and warm is another faux pas that any one opening a business knows to stay clear of. $8,000 in delinquent electric bills? There’s little to no excuse; Tower 2012 would never be so careless.

The future of these establishments seems in disrepair: Ferris notes that the Jigsaw is temporally closed which means dozens of regulars are sitting on unfamiliar bar stools in less inviting bars all across town. I can’t even begin to walk down my own memory lanes reserved for each of the places in question. Shit man, I used to practically live at the Hi Fi. It was the first place I thought of to book out of town bands that I was cool with. Amps II Eleven reserved that stage for big shows and Southern Trespass booked more than one reunion there. The Agora is where I saw Motorhead time and time again. Where my friend Chris threw a plastic cup of piss off the balcony during a Cradle of Filth show and I witnessed Spike Dudley dive from that exact seat onto a stack of tables. Peabody’s is synonymous with Metal and tall cans of High Life. And the Jigsaw… home away from home. The most inviting, welcoming and down right magical drinking establishment I have ever been a patron of. Now it may be gone. Gone, gone, gone.

But what was most poignant, heartbreaking and utterly inexcusable was this last paragraph written by Ferris:

“Most painful to her, it seems, was the emotional goodbye from Joe, a disillusioned 80-year-old longtime regular. Tears in his eyes, he took his mug and went home.”

I think I know the guy they are talking about. If I am mistaken then it’s of no real matter because that sentiment and those tears can be assigned to many past booze hounds and rock fans who went to all four clubs. An end of an era seems wrong; it’s the end of a quick and ugly run by a misinformed and misguided attempt at making a name for oneself. Making a name in an unforgiving town that was already surviving on it’s own through an intelligent and self motivated group of wonderful people, bands and clubs.

I hope that some of those affected personally by this charade can recoup and push the legacy of the Agora, Peabody’s, Hi Fi and Jigsaw forward. Cleveland is full of ghosts… no need to fill the graveyard further.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One Song In Words

Sitting in front of the computer drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, alone again, with nothing to fill this blog with. I wish there was a good Cleveland distro that would send me free music every week to write about when I’m stuck in moments such as this. Of course there is nothing like that or, at least, anyone willing to give me things in return for my writing. Oh well. Not everyone can make a living doing what they love and I’m unluckier than most so it makes sense I can’t even get a few demos on CD-R.

Then it hits me, right? Yes, it does (or did). The internet is full of free shit and I owe my success in the blogging world to the internet. So we should work together and make a child. I stress that I am drinking and alone right now.

I’m deciding to spend this free time I have so much of to check in on some myspace pages and playing a weird little game of catch-up with some of my favorite Cle bands. It’s probably easier for me this way: I can only come up with so many clever things to say about one band alone and describing an entire record in biting, hip and irreverent fashion is akin to walking to the liquor store. Too much work, I’d rather take the short route or drive.

Long Story Short
I had heard rumors that these guys were taking a different direction these days, something more Nashville influenced rather than the usual New York or wherever over and undertones. They remain to me the most intelligent and overtly catchy band in Cleveland and this song literally dares you not to move your feet with its stomping rhythm. At once a modern indie rock take on Johnny Cash and a lower-fi Black Lips garage sound. Nicks vocals are extra raw here, maybe taking cue from the great story tellers before him. Whatever they are doing, it works.

This Moment in Black History
Oh jeez, just what the world needed. I have to wonder if TMIBH was the first hardcore band to write an ode to Obama or did Municipal Waste and Spazz beat them to it. Maybe they’ll be the last to walk such a strange route too because this is pretty damn awful. I’m all for some experimentation and I voted Barack as well but I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing this song again. I will note that the guitars sound brutal. Bad Brains type of brutal but that ridiculous chant of ‘Obama! Barack Obama!’ is more than enough to make me vote Kucinich.

Hail Satan! I don’t know what to write other than my head has been pummeled and my heart stolen with a few minutes of this most earth shaking Metal. Some of my fondest Cleveland metal memories have been sparked by these evil suburbanites and this, heathens, is proof that where there are bullet belts and pentagrams there is talent and the smell of burning meat on the grill. Excellent.

Sun God
Bailin’ Out
This tune not only plays host to a bitching song title but it lives up to it by busting open my brains like a baseball bat of pure adrenaline. Reeking of all of my favorite 90s punk, Sun God posses an unbelievable amount of ability to riff away while staying melodic and metallic without any notion of cheesy post-punk reminiscing. If this is post anything its post-shitty Cleveland bands (their respective past projects withstanding. I mean Nine Shocks is Cleveland music to me). For some reason I always knew they were good, if not great, but today I stand here to proclaim them fucking KILLER. Inspiring enough to make me actually start a distro just to stock pile all of their new shit.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cle Food Fetish Vol1

It’s almost been two years since I moved from my comfortable but stagnant life in Cleveland to a consistently strange and changing existence in Los Angeles. The first few weeks felt like I was just passing through; like neither the city or my heart wanted me to stay for long. Then came the new friends, the shit jobs, the long nights and boring days. Life had gotten normal and just recently I realized that I wasn’t home sick any more. I didn’t have the desire, late at night, to move back to Tremont or get the old band back together. I had gotten through the hard part like a junkie who finally ditches the spins and is only puking a few times a day.

It feels good that I no longer have that pinch in my chest when I see Lebron James throw resin in the air. Or a tear in my eye when I watch the opening montage in Major League. But there is one thing I cannot replace, cannot forget and will not turn my back on. The food.

I miss Cleveland food. Lake Erie Perch (deep fried), Walleye, perogies, corned beef and sauerkraut, beer, sausage, chili and meatloaf. I’m sure some of these foods can be found in southern California but not EVERYWHERE like back home.

Take in point Sokolowskis. Heaven. Pure European magic in all it's German, Polish and Irish glory. The gut busting portions, the overheard office gossip when standing in that long line, the polka, the beer in buckets, the PORTIONS.

Over my last four trips home, I have visited this gem at lest six times. That’s more than I ever did in 28 years of living in Cleveland. What was I thinking all of those years? The meat loaf is better than any of your mothers could ever make, the perogies a rite of passage as a Midwesterner, the Salisbury steak acting like insulation for your body: helping you survive the last few months of winter.

It’s no wonder the walls are lined with 8x10s of every Cleveland legend you can remember. It’s home within home. A stroll away from downtown, stones throw from Tremont, Ohio City and Lakewood. An institution and now, sadly, a memory for me and my empty stomach that has been holding on to a dream that Los Angeles could have something as greasy, homely and truly amazing as Sokolowskis. So far… no go. But it’s not enough to make me home sick, no, just really hungry and a little nostalgic. I could get off of this lap top and cook myself something instead of complaining and strolling down this beaten up memory lane. But there's always In N Out Burger or the taco truck parked down the street. I guess somethings change but my poor eating habits just find other places to get their fix.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cleveland Book Club Part II

The world never needed something the way it needed a biography from Cleveland hero Chuck Schodowski… you know, Big Chuck. If you’re from Cleveland, of course you know Big Chuck & Lil John. They’re as recognizable a tag team as Carson & McMahon or even Hulk Hogan & Mr. T. Their lame skits and Parma approved kitsch is strangely charming and more comforting than a plate full of sausage and a Brownies win on Sunday.

It’s too bad this book isn’t as funny as the skit where Lil John finds gas for twenty cents only to look up and see his car is parked in front of fantasy island not the full service island. That was a fucking gas… for real. The book, not so much. The best I can say is that Schodowski lived a charmed life and he is someone to look up to as a true icon in our city. He never left and he had ample opportunity to do so as Hollywood loomed in the distance (I wish I was as smart as him. But that’s personal).

His book would be better on tape (recorded at the Clark Bar) as it reads like a real proud old timer telling stories at the local VFW hall over dollar cans of Natural Ice. And there really are some great Cleveland tales between the name drops and TV8 rhetoric. His days drinking with Ghoulardi could be made into a movie and the more I read about Lil John, the more I wanted to buy him a drink at Shooters or maybe a lap dance at Christies. And who knew the latter got knocked down by Mike Tyson only to pinch the dudes ass post-prison stint?

I love that fact that Schodowski loves Cleveland. And he does it with a passion that is rarely seen in this era of hipster hideaways like Brooklyn, Chicago and LA. If Big Chuck had it his way he would have been just another working class bloke with a house and some kids and a shit load of memories. In a sense he did have it his way but with the house and the kids came the strange fascination of an entire city and the respect of millions of kids who grew up in front of a television.

I know Big Chuck is getting up there in age but I hold on to a hope that I will run into him some Friday evening in a tavern with something like Booker T & the M.G.’s playing on the juke. I will gladly spend all the money in my wallet keeping the drinks coming so that I can hear all of these stories again, from the mouth of Big Chuck and with all the dirty, drunk parts left in.