Author Archives: Mike Scherf

TVD Live: Spoon at
the Newport Music
Hall, 6/12

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.

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TVD Live: Third Eye Blind and Dashboard Confessional at Jacobs Pavilion, 5/29

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.

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Visualize a relaxed
RSD experience in
My Mind’s Eye

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.

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TVD Live: Wand and Heaters at Happy Dog, 4/4

PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVICIt 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:

“Loud, HEAVY.”

“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.

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TVD Recommends: Whirr at Mahall’s 20 Lanes, 4/6

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.”

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TVD Recommends:
Wand at Happy Dog, 4/4

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.

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From the banks of Lake Erie with Beach Slang

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.

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The Orwells:
Escalating Quickly

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.

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TVD Live: Honeyblood and Jenna Fournier at the Grog Shop, 7/25

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.

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TVD Live: DIIV at the Grog Shop, 7/16

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?

Kind of.

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TVD Recommends: Amen Dunes at Happy Dog or The Donkeys at the Beachland Tavern, both 7/18

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?

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TVD Live: Patrick Sweany at Mahall’s, 7/2

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.

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TVD Recommends: Fucked Up at the Beachland Ballroom, 7/9

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.

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TVD Live: Arctic Monkeys at Jacobs Pavilion, 6/22

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.

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TVD Live: Sharon Van Etten at the Beachland Ballroom, 6/20

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.

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