PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Potential can be a real bitch sometimes. When you have potential, you have the tools to succeed and have a level of talent that is far above your peers. You’re right there and you can see success over the horizon. However, on the flip side, that horizon is so far away. Forget the hard work and all the bullshit to get to the place you want to be, sometime there’s just dumb luck and breaks that need to happen to get there.
Last Friday night at the Grog Shop, I saw two acts that I would bet on making it on the music scene—Honeyblood and Jenna Fournier.
I swear this Honeyblood thing is going to happen. However, you’d never know from their show at the Grog Shop that this is a band I’d be ready to bet on. The club wasn’t packed or raucous by any means; sparsely attended with a good number of those people being friends/family of the two local openers.
But while watching Honeyblood play, it all makes sense why you could see them reach an impressive level of success and is a band worthy of your attention.
First of all, sonically they are completely infectious and their sound takes you back to the distorted oasis that was the ’90s. It’s a fuzzy and crunchy mix of alt rock with hooks that are catchy as hell. Singer/guitarist Stina Tweeddale (bonus point for an awesome name) has a bubblegum sweetness to her voice that makes every song approachable, but there’s a smirk or darkness that lays just around the corner of every word. Drummer Shona McVicar provides a simple backbone and adds layers of harmonies that bring the songs to life.
Extraneous bullshit always draws us to bands.
Nirvana had the Kurt Cobain cult of personality. The Stones had drugs. Led Zeppelin had groupies. Ozzie had the Alamo thing. The Stooges had Iggy smearing himself with peanut butter and cutting himself on stage. There are a million other examples, but for better or worse there has to be a certain amount of myth around a band to make the general public sit up and take notice.
DIIV is in the business of myth building. Pop singer girlfriend? Absolutely. Alleged(?) drug use? Check. Comparisons to rock icons? You know it. High-end modeling gigs? Yup.
Not to say any of this is intentional or crafted to make the band a brand, but there’s a lot of non-music stuff going on here to sort through. Being candid, I would have never heard of them without all this shit surrounding them. All over the world there are talented, but uninteresting, bands toiling in bars for good reason. We all love the hype.
Go back to my initial list there for a second. While all those bands had myth that pushed them over the edge, all were fucking incredible artists. So the question stands: can DIIV play?
Music fans of Cleveland, pay attention! I present you with a difficult, but essential, choice of plans this Friday evening. There are two awesome shows in town and you should go to one of them. Which one? I don’t know. Read on and make this important life decision carefully.
At Happy Dog you have Amen Dunes, which is a totally rad show. Amen Dunes is the project of Damon McMahon that grew out of a collection of songs he wrote 2006. After shelving those songs and giving up music, he packed up and moved to China.
Unbeknownst to McMahon, the tapes from his 2006 session were being passed along to music people of note in America and he was gaining a critical reputation for the work he had done. A career spawned from half the globe away. Crazy how this world works, huh?
KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVD | I was prepared to be disappointed. I watched videos of other Fucked Up shows, and they seemed kinetic with shirtless front man Damian Abraham screaming into a moshing, ballistic crowd. Abraham came out with his shirt on and the crowd had been listless at best through two opening acts. Maybe a subdued audience was all we were going to get on a random July Wednesday night.
Abraham came out swinging his microphone in wide arcs. I waited for the crowd to explode as the band played “Paper the House” from their excellent new album, Glass Boys, but they didn’t. His shirt even came off halfway through the song, revealing his everyman’s belly and intricate chest tattoo. Some fans bobbed and swayed by the stage. The fans in the back stood still. This was not what I expected.
Then all hell broke loose on the second song.
Abraham held the microphone into the crowd, moving it expertly from person to person with each word before moving it back to his own mouth and attacking the song. The front of the stage turned into a pit with people jumping up onto the stage and into the crowd in a flashing instance.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Maybe I have America Fever because it’s the Fourth of July weekend, but I felt pretty patriotic seeing Patrick Sweany at Mahall’s last week.
Although he’s most often associated with the blues, Sweany isn’t a bluesman at all. He’s everything that came after that which was inspired by the blues. The amalgamation of soul, blues, and country. A melting pot with of all those uniquely American styles. Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I fantasize that if you drive across the country on Route 66, get off at any exit in the middle of America and walk into a bar, this is the type of music you would hear. Sadly, you don’t. He represents some ideal that was true long ago, yellowing somewhere in a photograph or under an inch of dust on a record.
But here was Sweany, performing the American dream right there on stage. Most of it influenced by some of the giants of early blues, rock, country, and soul, but never coming off as derivative. While many artists try to show off their influences as a badge of honor, Sweany blends and makes these sounds something of his own.
Over the course of the two-hour show, Sweany stomped out songs from his extensive catalog of music, touching every single genre from his massive array of influences. Bluesy rocky? Check. Slow soul burn? Yup. Twangy country? Absolutely. ’50s rock? You got it. It was all there through a thick reverb that was irresistible to a music purist.
Fucked Up is coming to the Beachland Ballroom Wednesday night, which is really awesome. This is probably one of those shows that if you know who the band is and what they are about, you’re probably really excited. If not, you’re probably missing out on one of those most original acts out there.
So, I’m writing to the uninitiated here because people who are into Fucked Up are REALLY into Fucked Up.
The band was founded in 2001 as a punk/hardcore project and has evolved into what they are today. That’s through four full-length releases and assorted other EPs, compilations, and 7″s, the band has grown to be something completely unique and cool.
So, what are they? Most people have described them as having a classic/anthemic rock sound with hardcore punk vocals. Does that mean they are still “punk”? I don’t know, but I had a chance to ask guitarist and founding member Mike Haliechuk some questions and he was kind of conflicted on how to categorize themselves as well.
PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | Let me take everyone back for a moment to 1995. August 10, 1995 to be precise.
This was the day my musical taste began to take shape and my life changed forever. That’s far from hyperbole too. On that late summer evening in 1995, I saw my first concert—Weezer at the Nautica Pavilion.
That night, my scrawny little 13-year-old self had his mind fucking blown by live music for the first time. I remember it vividly too. My dad worked security and kept one eye on me and my friend while we parked our asses on the bleachers under strict orders not to move.
The opening jangle of “Surf Wax America” from that night still rings in my head now. My brain swimming with how fucking crowded the show was and everyone was freaking out to the same thing. I remember the giant =w= logo behind the stage and how larger-than-life it made the band seem. Those flashing lights and loud chords sparked a passion to see as many shows as possible through my high school and college years.
It’s crazy how some things stay the same, even as time moves on.
PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | When approaching an artist like Sharon Van Etten, there is an interesting paradox in play. On one hand you can’t ignore the subject matter that shows up on her records. Heartbreak. Pain. Illness. Mental struggles.
On the other, why should we pay such close attention to these themes? Sure, the subjects of the songs seem deeply personal to the artist and provide context for the art, but isn’t good songwriting just good songwriting? Just because a song is personal, as opposed to fabricated stories, doesn’t automatically give it credibility as more “authentic” or any bullshit like that.
While most of what I’ve read about Van Etten’s recorded output is about how melancholy the songs are, I have a different take. I find her work to be truly life affirming. While not minimizing what she has gone through, I think it’s fair to boil it all down to “shit happens.” This is fucking life and I think we’ve all either been through this stuff or know someone who has. I don’t think the heartbreak on her records is the story at all—it’s how it’s presented and packaged.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | A story about a handjob in a downtown Cleveland mall put the entire Beck show into perspective.
Near the very end of his set, during a breakdown interlude of “Where It’s At,” Beck told the story. He relayed that earlier in the day he was in the Tower City Mall and saw a woman giving a gentleman a handjob under his gym shorts while a gospel band played nearby. Beck proclaimed that this very moment IS the essence of Cleveland. The crowd went fucking bananas.
I don’t know if this story was true, but the point is I want to believe it. Beck has that way about him; he’s the carnival barker. The traveling tent preacher.
I sincerely call him those things in the most complimentary way because everything he’s selling you is wrapped together in the most wonderful, joyous package and it’s impossible to not buy in. He’s a complete showman and the show he puts on is just as important as the substantial music he is performs. This is two sides of the coin coming together to provide a complete experience.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | “We’re Cloud Nothings and we’re from Medina and Westlake.”
—Dylan Baldi, Singer, Cloud Nothings
That’s how the show started last Friday at Mahall’s in Lakewood, OH. Not the standard “We’re from Cleveland” crowd pandering, oh no! Hyper-specific suburban Cleveland pandering!
It was perfect because here was one of the most beloved indie rock bands, playing a small converted billiards room in a bowling alley, in their hometown of Cleveland. It felt like something was happening in that room on that drunken, sweaty Friday night. That night, Cloud Nothings went in.
“But I’m not, I’m not you. You’re a part of me, you’re a part of me.”
“I’m Not Part of Me”
Cloud Nothings never did fully feel part of the Cleveland scene. The tale has been told many times, but Baldi basically got his start writing lo-fi rock in his parent’s basement while a freshman at Case Western Reserve University under a fuck ton of different band names. One was Cloud Nothings, he got an offer from a small indie label and he was off. Literally and figuratively, Baldi was a shooting star that never really became a “thing” in Cleveland more than anywhere else, and it happened quickly.
He lived in Brooklyn. The band recorded in Austin. He lived in Paris. Never a fixture on the local scene, Cleveland was always part of the story, never a functional element of the band’s history.