Crazy and the Brains/The Due Diligence/Shivering Timbers at Now That’s Class, Cleveland, OH, 1.13.11

Crazy and the Brains

Imagine: You’re in a chilly punk bar, the kind with band stickers all over the walls, along with a little graffiti, and bike quarter pipes along the back of the room. There’s four-piece punk band on stage whose line-up includes xylophone. The band starts up, and a crowd comes dancing in, some of whom look like they were shipped in from the suburbs. There is a conga line at one point.

This was my cognitive dissonance-inducing introduction to not only Now That’s Class (a nice little venue with good acoustics and a laid-back vibe – easy to see why they received more than one nod in Scene’s most recent “best of” round-up), but also Crazy and the Brains. The audience, who had apparently been priming themselves at the bar for a while, was ready to dance, and CatB supplied just the right soundtrack with their bright, high-energy punk rock. While their originals, like “Birthday Song” and “Saturday Night Live”, were well-received, the most popular song of their set was a scream-along cover of “I Want Candy”.

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Soft Speaker/HotChCha/mr. Gnome at the Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, 12.18.1010

Somewhere between home and the Beachland, I managed to lose one of my camera batteries, but I did manage to attain a concert-going companion (NTSIB friend Joy) with a camera phone. We didn’t get any shots of Soft Speaker, but we do have some fittingly atmospheric pictures of HotChaCha and mr. Gnome.

Soft Speaker

This Chicago quartet, whom my brain persisted in thinking of as the Red Guitar Brigade due to the color of all their string instruments, weaves in and out of styles, sometimes moving from a more funked-up groove to treble-heavy indie rock within the same song. And it may just be my background playing up things that weren’t there, but it seemed at times that the vocals and lyrics were influenced by a dusting of late-’90s goth. While it is easy to hear how a track like “I Stand To Lose My Fortune, Easy” can grow quickly on the listener, Soft Speaker’s encompassing style is perhaps too much for a first-time listener to process at a live show, and they never seemed to spark with the audience.


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Eddie Kirkland/The Alarm Clocks/The Gories at the Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, 11.27.10

This past Saturday night at the Beachland (a busy day for the venue on all fronts with four different events taking place) felt more like a package tour out of the 1950s than your regular a-headliner-and-two-openers show. The mirror ball was spinning, and New York DJ Mr. Fine Wine (check out his WFMU Friday night show Soulville) painted the scene with groovin’ chunks of early soul between sets.

Eddie Kirkland

Kirkland’s name might be a little obscure, but his history should make even the most casual music fan pay attention. Aside from his own modest hit “The Hawg” (released on Stax/Volt in 1963 under the name Eddie Kirk), Kirkland played second guitar for John Lee Hooker on a number of recordings throughout the ’50s and toured in Otis Redding’s live band for a while in the early ’60s.

After spending most of his pre-show time sitting behind his amp, waiting for his backing band (second guitar, bass guitar, drums and keys) to arrive, Kirkland suffered a little from a hurried soundcheck (this apparently stemming from the fact that … Continue reading

Trampled by Turtles/The Infamous Stringdusters at the Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio, 11.6.10

Trampled by Turtles

Many times, when you hear one song by a band and are instantly excited
by it, the rest of that band’s repertoire can be disappointing. I
heard Trampled by Turtles’ “Wait So Long” a while back and loved it
instantly, so when they started off their set at the Beachland
Saturday night with a mellow number, while it was a lovely song, I
wondered if I was in for impending disappointment. But all misgivings
were completely wiped out by the second song when TBT launched into
the thrash-grass sound that’s been garnering them fans all over the

TBT played a very good mix of slower tunes with their fast tunes, but
it was obviously the fast ones the audience had come for, and I don’t
think anyone was disappointed. Between the foot-stomping that was
going on out on the floor and the guy who was headbanging to my left,
for a moment, I wondered if a … Continue reading

Craig Wedren/Greg Dulli at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH, 10.16.10

Craig Wedren

Given my long-standing love for Greg Dulli (generally referred to in my world by his proper name: Greg fucking Dulli), it was a given that I would jump on tickets to this special acoustic show, Dulli’s first solo tour. When it was announced that Craig Wedren of Shudder to Think would be opening, my eyes nearly rolled back in my head. In the later 1990s, before bands began breaking up and band members died, my holy triumvirate of music was topped by the Afghan Whigs with Morphine and Shudder to Think anchoring the other corners. I was fortunate enough to see each of these bands play before tides turned, and I cherish the memory of those shows. To be able to check in with the frontmen of two of those bands in one night was a special treat.

Wedren looked exactly as I remembered seeing him back in 1997 when Shudder to Think toured in support of 50,000 B.C.: fresh, lean and handsome with a spectacular smile and a sparkle in his eye. Mixing his solo and … Continue reading

Henry Clay People/Drive-By Truckers at Musica in Akron, OH, 10.5.10

The Henry Clay People

The Henry Clay People took the stage with confidence and ease, and while the beginning of their set struck me the same way their album Somewhere on the Golden Coast struck me – decent but same-y – things picked up with a song dedicated to the Drive-By Truckers (“This Ain’t a Scene”, I believe) and only got better from there. Joey Siara helped endear the band to the crowd by soliciting requests for cover songs… though the crowd was possibly stuck in a time-warp as Siara’s guidance to suggest a band from the ’70s was met with a shout for Guided By Voices. After a creditable rendering of “Game of Pricks”, Jay Gonzalez was brought on stage to join the band for a stop-start go at “Space Oddity” that included audience participation in the form of countdowns and hand-claps.

After a couple more stand-up originals, the band finished out their set with a cover of “Born to … Continue reading

HotChaCha/Freedom/A Place to Bury Strangers at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH, 9.27.10

Ah, Grog Shop, someday I’ll learn not to be fooled by your posted show times. Someday, I will learn that in Grogspeak, 8 p.m. means “sometime after 10”. But enough of my kvetching. How about some fucking rock ‘n’ roll?


HotChaCha are like an answer to my prayers – or, at least, a solution to the complaint I’ve made in this blog before about all the twee girly girls in music today. Singer Jovana Batkovic is probably more manly than most of the other men who hit the stage Monday night. Taller, too. Her long-legged presence, mic-phallic gyrations, forays into the audience and rolling around on the stage bring an undeniably entertaining aspect to HotChaCha’s live show, but it’s not covering up or compensating for anything else. Her energy feeds off of and perfectly complements the punk-spirited rock churned out by this four-piece. At once at ease and energetic, HotChaCha’s vigorous show is a credit to Cleveland, to women in rock and to the spirit of rock in general.


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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 … Continue reading

Beach Fossils/Warpaint/Javelin at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, OH, 8.10.10

Note: Beach Fossils and Warpaint played under very low lights, and flash photography is of the devil, so no live shots to go with this review.

Beach Fossils

Joined by TJ from Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings, who filled in on guitar due to the Fossils’ guitarist quitting a week into the tour, the Beach Fossils dove into the night with big energy that did not dissipate throughout their set. With their chiming guitars, dance-groove bass and big-beat drums (the drummer stood as he played his minimal snare and tom set-up), they give off an ’80s vibe, putting me in mind of the club scenes from Pretty in Pink. That is a good thing, in case you’re unsure. The songs began to sound a little same-y after a while, but the band was fully committed to every song.


When I decided to hit this show, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Warpaint live. Their recordings are laid-back, and I honestly … Continue reading