PHOTOS: JUDIE VEGH | “I don’t consider us a lyrics band, and I write the lyrics.”
This was Sadie Dupuis’s retort to a question about a subject that had been hashed over a thousand times in print—the weight and importance of her lyrics. She is the lead singer and guitarist for Massachusetts indie band Speedy Ortiz, and I had just made the mistake of accusing the band of being known as a “lyrics band”—a label I never thought of as accurate but seems to stick with the band anyway.
I chatted with the band on a clear blue evening in Cleveland Heights. The band sat on the concrete flower beds outside the Grog Shop where they would be playing that night. Dupuis and drummer Mike Falcone did most of the talking. Guitarist Devin McKnight chimed in agreements at sporadic intervals while bassist Darl Ferm silently smoked a cigarette to the side.
During their show, many of the songs employed a soft-verse, loud-chorus dynamic where the guitars roared to life on the choruses. Dupuis and McKnight had their guitars hooked up to a half-dozen or more effects pedals they slammed on and off throughout the songs. Ferm’s bass was a constant backbone through the set, grooving along during the choruses, disappearing under the guitar’s wall of sound during the choruses and reappearing like a ghost that had always been there but wavered between different planes of existence.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Music writers salivate when dumping a thousand words on a page about the trends of Record Store Day. Are the major labels too involved? How does the ordering work? Do small stores really get fucked over in favor of bigger “independent” retailers? Is it “good” or is it “bad?”
But what if the politics are put aside? What if stores just took that day for what it’s worth, ordered stuff they thought their customers would want, and tried to make it as enjoyable as possible?
This is the story of one store, on one day, and how that day doesn’t make or break the store.
My Mind’s Eye opened in Lakewood, Ohio in 1999, and has spanned two locations (it started on Madison Avenue and now is located on Detroit Avenue). If you can picture the ideal of a “traditional” record store, this would be it. Racks upon racks of records and CDs, stacks of god knows what behind the counter, and an owner that you like, but you can’t put your finger on just why.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | It was a night of psych rock of all kinds at Happy Dog, and let’s just say it got really weird. The best place to start is the main event for the night, Wand. Here’s some of the notes (verbatim) I jotted down at the show about Wand:
“Like beating your head against a wall, including the feeling of light headedness.”
“This is like a bag full of bricks.”
“Holy shit, they are actually making people leave… and it’s awesome.”
That last note summed up how awesome Wand was. This was the scene to give some context to explain why this was so cool:
Happy Dog is a fun little bar that also serves great hot dogs. Regardless if they are hosting a show or not, the place is usually pretty crowded on a weekend night. This Saturday night was no different. About an hour before the show, the place was hopping and there was some sort of party going on in the room downstairs. The vast majority of people weren’t there to check out the band and this is probably the case on most of the nights of shows.
Shoegaze is often associated with aloofness. Loud/distorted guitars, mumbled vocals way far back in the mix, and the complete lack of interest from the performer connecting with an audience.
However, shoegaze is kind of having its moment again. And for good reason! It’s some of the most life affirming music you can hear.
There’s no better experience than listening to a band like My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive at ungodly levels and just getting wrapped up in the sound. The elements of the genre can be incredibly moving and give you a live experience that is hard to replicate with any other offshoot of “rock music.”
Let’s set the scene—it’s Saturday night. You and your friend and/or lover are intent on taking mind altering substances and having a good time. Tomorrow is Sunday, so fuck it… you can go wild. You have said substances, but what should you do to enjoy them?
A. Sit in your living room staring at a wall and wondering if aliens exist.
B. Go to the beach and freeze to death while pondering the vastness of water to land ratio on the Earth.
C. See Wand at Happy Dog.
Don’t be an idiot. Choose C.
Wand is a psychedelic/garage band from LA that brings a little bit of ’70s era glam flair to the mix with their latest record, Golem. On both Golem, and their previous record Ganglion Reef, there are tons of crazy fantasy/ Dungeons and Dragons/ magical vibes going on that—how do I say this—enhance the mood of the music to fit your state of mind. Both records from the band are excellent, but I’m expecting the live show to be next-level.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | The crowd is gathered close to the band, singing every word to every song and casually chatting up singer/guitarist James Alex Snyder between breaks in the music. The band brings friends and other artists from the show on stage to take over bass duties or sing a song. Their set, crafted with old stuff, new stuff, and a few covers, is a tight 45 minutes.
Based on just the facts as written—and honestly the feel during the show—it could easily be mistaken for a local “scene” show in someone’s living room. Except it wasn’t. It was Beach Slang’s last night on tour with indie rock luminaries Cursive, playing to a room full of kids who desperately looked forward to seeing both bands.
There’s a certain amount of casualness around how Beach Slang goes about their business and Snyder is the center of it. He’s incredibly charming and polite, both one-and-one and on-stage. He’s so likeable, it builds a connection with anyone he interacts with. Success has been building fast, but the band is grounded. All of the members of the band have previously been involved in other projects (Snyder in Weston, bassist Ed McNulty in NONA and Crybaby, and drummer JP Flexner in Ex-Friends), so the band seems relaxed to the ebb and flow.
The band left their entire set list in plain view under a spotlight towards the front of the stage. Everyone in the first few rows could clearly see they planned two songs for the encore. That didn’t stop them from waiting backstage for several minutes while the young audience screamed their own brains out. A guy in the crowd yelled, “Thank you!” and followed it up with “Yeah, bitch!” when the band finally came back on stage.
Before the last song, lead singer Nicholas Thorburn said, “It’s been six, eight years since I’ve been here?”
“Six years,” someone yelled back.
“Too long. Like in that David Bowie song, ‘Six Years.’”
The crowd applauded with loving zeal after every song—any song. They whistled and screamed their excitement, and Islands deserved it. Their live show was full of faithful reproductions of the album versions—like watching the band nail take after take in the studio.
The tracks sounded so faithful thanks mostly to the backing band’s perfectionist instrumental aptitude. The Gordon brothers, Evan and Geordie, switched adeptly between playing keyboards and bass and guitar. They not only replicated the notes and arrangements of every song, but the very tone of their instruments was spot on and uncannily similar, which is a hard thing to replicate live.
I was a little worried during the first few songs as Thorburn’s vocals were buried under the instruments, making it hard to pick out the vocal melodies let alone any actual lyrics. After the second song, he asked for “more vocals,” and the sound was brought into a perfect equilibrium.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Mario Cuomo, singer from The Orwells, stands stage left, blankly staring. Is he pissed? Is he thinking? Is he just fucked up? It’s unclear.
He takes a step forward, and the magic happens. The crowd, both men and women, reach forward to touch him. To stroke his chest and long, curly hair; running their fingers over anything they can grab. Cuomo seems detached, in the most engaging way possible. His mental distance from everything casts a cloud. What the fuck is this?
Just then is the breakthrough. He soaks it in for a minute, takes a step backs and slyly smiles. That’s it. Just the softening of his eyes and a shit-eating grin shows that he knows he has everyone eating this up.
The Orwells are the wet dream for people with preconceived notions of how a band from the midwest’s backstory should read. Teenage kids in the suburbs get together and start fucking around with music while in high school. They make some stuff they think is cool, record it, submit it to an indie label with a blog, and get signed. Real storybook stuff.
PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | It’s going to be hard avoiding “hospitality” puns in this review. The band was just so damn nice and inviting. Most headliners hang out backstage, waiting to rock their fans’ faces off, but not Hospitality. They were on a mission to be just another three people at a show in Cleveland—they just happened to be headlining the show, too.
Before the show even began, they walked around Coventry, checking out the neighborhood around the Grog Shop. They ate together as a band at Chipotle (I thought this was a dining mistake, but they never asked me restaurant suggestions). During the opening acts, they hung out in the back of the crowd or at the bar almost the entire time.
At one point, Greta Kline, the lead singer of opening act Frankie Cosmos, invited all the members of the other opening band, Porches (where Kline also plays bass), and Hospitality on stage with her to play the last song. Musically, it was a terrible idea. Ten people played a song most of them probably didn’t really know.
Toward the end, Kline yelled, “Everybody solo!” and they all did exactly that, creating a noise that was the audio equivalent of having 100 kindergarteners draw on one sheet of paper. But Hospitality didn’t mind obliging, and that wasn’t the point anyway. They cared about fun and they cared about inclusion.
KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVD | It’s August in Cleveland. It’s humid outside. All the shows on TV either suck or are depressing. The big summer movie involves a talking raccoon. Let’s face it, you want to go somewhere air-conditioned, get drunk, and listen to music.
May I recommend Hospitality? They’re coming to the Grog Shop on Wednesday night, and they are pretty bitchin’. This is a band you don’t have to be familiar with to enjoy their show. Imagine an alternate universe where Camera Obscura is more interested in rocking and being cool than making you want to slit your wrists. That’s the elevator pitch for Hospitality.
Hospitality’s self-titled first album is full of upbeat, fun twee-pop. The band is from Brooklyn, but lead singer Amber Papini apes a British accent for no other reason that I can figure out than it sounds kind of cool. This is especially true on their first album where the fake accent is turned up to 11 and the backing band plays their twee arrangements politely behind her. Everything is bright and happy and oh-so-fun.