On Sunday night, after Against Me! played a killer 20+ song set, I thought it appropriate to wait outside for about 2 hours for a chance to meet the band. How many times in my life was I going to be able to meet a band I respected so much and had followed for years?
The buzz from the show was still ringing in our ears and in our veins as people perched on the sidewalks near the tour buses. When Laura Jane Grace finally came out, she was greeted with hugs, gratitude, and stories of personal turmoil and bravery. Inge Johansson and Atom Willard also came out to greet fans. When asked how he felt about the Cleveland crowd, Willard said, “This crowd, the energy was so high… you could feel it, you know? And we’re really receptive to that.” This was a perfect explanation of the night, because both the audience at the House of Blues and Against Me! gave it their all.
Donning a “Gender is Over” tank, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace took center stage, her powerful presence invoking deafening hollering from the crowd and clenched fists pumping in the air as the band opened their set with “Unconditional Love.” Grace beamed at the throng letting the cheers soak in and energize her—wide-eyed and wild-haired, strumming her guitar as she paced the stage. Bassist Inge Johansson and drummer Atom Willard matched Grace’s intensity while guitarist James Bowman took a calmer approach.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Let’s spend a few paragraphs getting some obvious stuff out of the way before I dig into what this review will really be about.
Spoon is a fantastic band. Like really, really great. Their discography is nearly impeccable, they sound awesome live, the whole band is loaded front to back with incredible musicians, and Britt Daniel is an all-world front man. They also seem like generally awesome people and go out of their way to keep their vinyl discography in print and at a low cost.
You should go see Spoon live. Their set last Friday in Columbus was great and that’s even with the first quarter of the set being completely marred by guitar issues. Daniel’s guitar straight up didn’t work and the lead guitar was all messed up too. They were visibly frustrated and were understandably a little sloppy through the first three or four songs, but when things pulled together, they were a treat.
Back to Britt Daniel for a second—the guy has something timeless about him. From the way he physically looks to the way he delivers his vocals, he just seems like a rock star through and through without coming off as a pompous jerk. He held his guitar high in the air and pointed at the crowd, and at that exact moment the house lights flick on and the audience roars. That’s a mastery of the moment to get a crowd whipped into a frenzy.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Nostalgia can be a hell of a drug. The wistful pull to what you’ve enjoyed in the past can be an irresistible siren’s song. It causes you to revisit things that you’ve made an emotional connection with but have since moved from.
The Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional summer tour, which kicked off in Cleveland last Friday, has indirectly been positioned as a taste of late ’90s/early ’00s goodness. Two bands from a time when alternative radio was breathing its dying gasps and transitioning to a new world of MP3s.
This tour isn’t positioned as nostalgia bait by the artists involved, mind you. Both bands have had successful careers since their immediate success as new artists way back when, and Third Eye Blind has a new release on the way. When I say indirectly positioned, I’m talking more about this kind of stuff. It’s very easy for fans and journalists to read into this tour as a piece of nostalgic cash-in.
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.