Rainy Day Saints/Frosting/The Godfathers at the Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, 2.13.11

Rainy Day Saints

When I had previously seen Rainy Day Saints, their sound mix was muddy, making it difficult to gauge anything but a beat. Sad to say, this night was more of the same. Even sitting at the bar situated at the back of the Grog Shop, the sound seemed to be mixed for some point 20 feet behind the back wall. They might be a great band, but if they don’t gauge their sound mix down a little, it’s going to be hard to tell.


“This song’s on capo 1, everybody.”

Chicago band Frosting have a full complement of women and bald dudes and a good sense of humor. The group, led by a singer/guitarist who is not bald or a woman but does sort of look like a mashup of Doug Fieger and Mark Arm, powered through an upbeat set of guitar pop. A post-song comment from the singer gives a good idea of their sound: “I tried to sell that song to Matthew Sweet. He said, ‘No fucking way.'” An enjoyable set from a solid band with good stage presence and some nice harmonies.

The Godfathers

The fucking Godfathers, people.

As I’ve noted before, the Godfathers’ album Birth, School, Work, Death has been a staple for me since youth. In that previous post, I mentioned that I had never become a big enough fan of the group to pursue any of their other albums (which, in Ohio in the late ’80s/early ’90s, would have taken a good amount of effort), but seeing them Sunday night for their first show on American soil in over 20 years has changed that.

From the moment the Godfathers – singer Peter Coyne, guitarist Del Bartle, drummer Grant Nichols and a bassist whose name I did not catch, filling in for Chris Coyne who was detained in the UK as he’s apparently a threat to national security or something – stepped on stage, it was clear that there would be no fucking around. Peter Coyne still seems pretty pissed off, and the Godfathers’ music still carries the same intense energy. Still sharp in their pinstripes, the band delivered a punishing set spanning back to the Sid Presley Experience (the band from which the Godfathers formed in 1985) all the way up to brand new song “Back into the Future”, hitting some amazing high points in between: “‘Cause I Said So”, “Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues”, “When Am I Coming Down”, “This Damn Nation” and on.

Coyne cuts as imposing a figure as ever, gripping the microphone like he’s going to shoot you with it, spitting lyrics with as much vengeance as he did 20 years ago, grazing the audience with his blue-eyed, hard-edge stare between snarls – though he was never anything less than gracious to the appreciative audience. “It’s been too long,” he told Cleveland at one point.

Almost as a counterpoint to Coyne’s ever-serious demeanor, Nichols’ drumming was almost gleeful, backing the songs with on-point propulsion. Bartle’s guitar playing is so precise you wouldn’t know he hadn’t written the lines himself (he played in the Sid Presley Experience and joined the Godfathers in 2008). And the low end was more than competently held down by the bass player.

It was a gratifying show on a number of levels, not least of which was being able to shout along to “Birth, School, Work, Death” and have it feel just as vital now as it did when I first heard it 20-some years ago. This is no nostalgia act. This is goddamn rock ‘n’ roll.

(And while I don’t usually do this, I feel so strongly that you should see the Godfathers live, here’s a list of their remaining U.S. dates:

Feb. 15: Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ
Feb. 16: Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
Feb. 18: Black Cat, Washington, D.C.
Feb. 19: Frankie’s Inner City, Toledo, OH
Feb. 20: Double Door, Chicago, IL
Feb. 21: Club Garibaldi, Milwaukee, WI
Feb. 22: Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO)

Rainy Day Saints/Wye Oak/Lou Barlow + the missingmen at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH, 8.27.10

Rainy Day Saints

Kicking off the show around 10:30 p.m. (contrary to the 8 p.m. start time listed on the Grog Shop website. Though I’m getting to the point where I actually like the Grog Shop, their concept of time continues to mystify me) was local opener Rainy Day Saints. Playing straight-ahead, classic Cleveland-style rock with a modern influence, the band suffered from a muddy sound mix in which Marianne Friend’s saxophone and harmony vocals all but disappeared, and it was difficult to tell if any of the songs were good or not. Still, the band seemed to enjoy themselves, so there’s that.

Wye Oak

While the Wye Oak recordings I have heard have been a little mellow for me, the word around the internet was that skeptics should catch the Baltimore duo live before locking in an opinion, and this advice proved on the mark. While you might expect something tiny and twee upon seeing Jenn Wasner in her ballet flats and polka dot blouse, she unleashes an intense sound. With Wasner on vocals and guitar and Andy Stack on drums and keyboards, Wye Oak is equal parts dreamy Americana pop and noise assault. They won over the audience quickly, party through their music and party through Wasner’s charming and friendly personality, and drew vocal praise for “Holy Holy”, a song from their forthcoming album (which Stack works on in the backseat of their tour van “while I talk to myself for 7 hours,” says Wasner).

Sidenote: Red keyboards are so hot right now. Seriously, this is about the fifth one I’ve seen at a show this year.

Lou Barlow + the missingmen

“Lou Barlow!” one of the more, uh, enthusiastic audience members helpfully shouted through the night, just in case we – or Barlow himself – forgot who he was. (The same person would also like you to know that “The Freed Pig” is the best break-up song ever. At least, I assume this is why she stated this no less than four times until Barlow honored her request.) I wasn’t about to forget because, confession time, I was a little geeked out to be seeing someone I’ve been listening to for about a decade, in his various bands and projects, at this little club.

Barlow began the show solo with his acoustic guitar (the case for which sports a handsome Music Saves sticker), chatting with the crowd, telling stories and taking requests (or pretending to). He played sweet-voiced renderings of songs like “Magnet’s Coil”, “Puzzled” and “Rebound” before bringing on missingmen Tom Watson and Raul Morales (on loan from Mr. Mike Watt) for an electric set.

Watson and Morales bring great talent and energy to the stage, and it’s easy to see why Watt has been keeping this friendly, easy-going pair close and why Barlow borrows them. They helped pump up songs like “Home”, “Too Much Freedom” and “Gravitate”. Things really broke out when Barlow put down his Danelectro and strapped on the bass, closing out the electric set by tearing up “Losercore”.

Back for an acoustic encore, Barlow broke out his ukulele (a baritone uke as opposed to the popular soprano uke) for “Beauty of the Ride” and “Soul and Fire” before returning to his acoustic for a few more songs, including the aforementioned “The Freed Pig”, closing out the show with “Brand New Love”.

Barlow is a skilled entertainer, aware how to keep a good balance with his audience. During solo acoustic sets, he chats more – telling stories about everything from annoying his sisters with an 8-track player to finding a bag of weed in a hotel room left by the previous occupants, the Black Crowes – and comes across as amiable, funny and candid. “Did I ever tell you my Cleveland story?” he asks the audience at one point, creating the feeling of being friends who have hung out together before. But when Watson and Morales join him onstage, the between-song conversation was turned down as the music amped up.

I don’t normally add links to my show reviews, but I have to share Lou Barlow’s great website and kingofthecastle7’s YouTube channel for videos of the show.