Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jim Konya


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Classic Cleveland - Cleveland Metal Compilation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Destroy Cleveland

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Draw Hard Trailer

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

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

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

Check out the Draw Hard Facebook

Draw Hard Trailer from TurnStyle Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One Song in Words - HIRAM-MAXIM Visceral

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

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

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

Hiram-Maxim Website

Friday, February 6, 2015

Album Review: Cruelster – Potatoe Boys

The abbreviation LP is for the term ‘”long player” which is used to describe a twelve inch record or a “full length” release from a recording artist. Usually an LP is a chance for a band to give the listener an hour or so of their musical vision but you don’t have to worry about all that shit with Cleveland oddities Cruelster: their first LP is a seven inch disguised as a twelve; clocking in at eleven minutes, it is about the same length as a Rush song.

“Boys in the Biggest City” is Cleveland hardcore at it’s most obnoxious, shitty and all around ugliest self. Reminiscent of all the great late nineties stuff that came out of the city, Cruelster is a monster of thrashy angst and masters of pointless noise. There is nothing considerably great about Potatoe Boys but it’s an insanely fun couple of minutes.

“Lipid” meshes the chaotic joy of the Darvocets with the smart destructive nature of the Homostupids while “I’m Too Small” nears the pained, suburban anger of eighties Cleveland legends the Dark. It’s hard to say if Potatoe Boys needs a few more tunes or its perfect in its gruff and fleeting existence. While not original, the genre has seen it all done before, sometimes a band like Cruelster makes the old seem new and twice as much fun the second (or third) time around. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Album Review: Obnox – Boogalou Reed

Lamont “Bim” Thomas is a scene stalwart for the generations; you knew him when you were a young buck, shared a joint with him when your band opened for his and introduced him to your girl when you came back to town for a visit. He was around when Lakewood was fringe and he continues to push Cleveland toward artistic Valhalla rather than hot topic wasteland.

From the Bassholes to This Moment in Black History and on to his current project, Obnox, Bim has been a Cleveland punk rock ambassador of the high kind. While not for everyone, Obnox has created a body of work as eclectic as the man himself; a dizzying blend of Funk, Punk, Hip Hop and pure noise. Past records like I’m Still Bleeding are difficult to grasp, challenging listeners to broaden their interpretations of music and crushing the idea of genres, tilting from fuzzed out garage rock to unorthodox Miami bass. It’s all a little much for new ears to take; maybe a hit off that joint will help.

We get a good indication of where Boogalou Reed is headed from the gates; starting with a plodding two minute number called “Wonder Weed”, the long player is already pushing our buttons. That is the point of rowdy rock music after all and Bim shovels attitude down our throats on the brash “Too Punk Shakur”; full of pure Clevo snarl, “Shakur” is a triumph of turbulent rock and roll. The title track is an eerie work of experimentation; like a smoother Self Destruct Button sipping on a wine cooler.

“I don’t care about Maximum Rock n Roll” Bim reflects on “Situation”, trading guitar driven garage rock for east coast hip-hop. It’s blunt music, ride or die meets the nineties Cleveland punk scene.

On what may be the most dissimilar cover of all time, Bim spins “Ohio” around on its axes until there is no note of Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young, only the type of Cleveland weirdness capable exclusively from a man who lived to define what that weirdness was. Boogalou Reed is not a normal record by any stretch of the word unless, of course, you are Lamont "Bim" Thomas because for him it's just another day in the life. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cleveland Classic - WMMS The Pride of Cleveland Compilation

There are certain images you grow up with as a music fan in Cleveland and chances are most of them revolve around a rock and roll buzzard with an annoying smirk on his face. The WMMS buzzard (does he have a formal name?) was a big part of Cleveland rock for at least three decades (he seemed to have died sometime around the early 00’s); the mascot of the cities flagship AOR radio station, he was less a character and more a symbol of our town’s readiness to rock.

The Pride of Cleveland compilation (an EBay score at $8 including postage) is a vinyl time capsule taking us back to a moment in music where everything was changing.  1980 was not just the start of a new decade but it also ushered in the Mtv generation, saw the steady decline of Punk Rock and the emergence of Hardcore. There was a lot going on in Cleveland music but, for WMMS, it was all about rock and this record shines a bright light on some bands that, at the time, were probably heralded on 101 FM as the next big thing to come out of the North Coast. That didn’t ring true but it’s still, looking back, a fine example of steel belt guitar rock at it’s beer chugging, factory working finest.

American Noise rattles the record into gear with their Midwest power-rock (a theme we will get used to before this over). The lyric pounds home a hard luck ethos: “I don’t care where you’ve been, we’ve all been there before” which is a familiar mantra for Ohio natives. The Cheap Trick influence drips like sugary quarter water off of the Jerry Busch Group’s “Nobody Does Me Better” but it’s the Hanoi Rocks attitude meets the Stones swagger on the Don Kriss party starter “Where’s the Fire” that really highlights what the local rock scene was made of. So catchy and worthy of another round of shots, it would make Gilby Clarke blush.

There are misses of course; the suburban reggae of I-Tal sounds out of place, better suited for a River Rocks afternoon set in the Flats. Wild Horses just need to get the fuck out of here with their “Funky Poodle”, recorded live at the Agora during a taping of the famous “Coffee Break Concert Series” promoted by the station. A well-intentioned stab at a skanking Ska romp came off like Around the Corner yacht club rock.

The Generators bring us back with their punk tinged anthem “I’m a Generator” while Love Affair burn through “Mama Sez”; perfect regional rock, equal parts Nugent and Segar.

Things end with the dull disco of Flatbush. While not much of value can be found in their end-of-the-seventies ugliness their lyrics do impart some pure Cleveland bar romanticism “out of all the girls, you’re the one that I have dug”.

It’s important to remember that in the middle of Michael Stanley madness, Cleveland did have bands going in other directions and Pride of Cleveland, while not a perfect frame of reference for the time, is a good example of what was and who ‘could have been’.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Album Review - Wetbrain

Hands are shaky, nose running, head spinning; Cleveland morning syndrome brought on by “the lifestyle” which leads some to early party-remorse-retirement and others to musical shittery of the most excellent variety. Wetbrain is made up of hard luck lifers of the west side variety (you know, the kind that saw Motorhead at the Variety) and their stuff sounds the part even as much as they look it, scabbed knuckles, callused fingers et al.

If you live in Cleveland and have been living under the rock that is the local music scene, then you don’t need to be told the lineage of dumpster dive orchestras that these guys created in their past but let’s just say that with out their histories the music scene would have been more Modest Mouse influence than Gauze. Nine Shocks Terror, GSMF, The Darvocets…the list reads like a documentary on Speak in Tongues.

Wetbrain isn’t a “where they left off” type of band though; instead they are the type of booze and bruise rock and roll only made by assholes that never stopped. It’s West Blvd rock, Unique Thrift punk: just don’t call it rehash because this is a full on pipe bomb of rust belt aggression. The musical chronicle of being down and out in a town that’s just the same.

“Occupy This” stumbles like last call at Now That’s Class; crass and unapologetic street rock played by guys who know it well. The spastic rush of “This Never Happened” rattles your brains with the rapid fire call ‘shut your mouth, can’t win’ being a little too close for Cleveland comfort.

The blood curdling hardcore of “Party ‘Till It’s a Blurr” is a strange and near perfect companion to the borderline smart rock and roll of “Euthanize Me”. It ends as blurry as it began; “Mental Surgery” showing as much Cleveland panache as a Browns Starter jacket.

Also to be noted is the sad in a way self-portrait cover art by Shaun and the classy color vinyl. It may have taken awhile but the first Wetbrain long player is worth every hangover you had last year.