Show Review

Aaron George
In Cleveland this Thursday there was something of a shadow cast on the city by LeBron James announcing his departure. Some time shortly after this though, while some folks burned jerseys and others moved on with a shrug, sixty or so people could be found at The Grog Shop listening to music that was a sharp contrast to the prevailing mood outside. It was a show filled with airy melodies, smiling faces, and a much more pleasant alternative to just about every bar in town that didn't have anything else to focus on.

Three bands played Thursday, each of them similar in sound and scene but varying in execution, and if anything the overall mood of the show reminded me what makes cities like Cleveland as great as they are. Who needs basketball when you have a welcoming environment for original music and art? (Okay, maybe that last little question is a bit of a stretch for some folks, but I try to be an optimist.)

The first band to take the stage were Cleveland natives, The Dreadful Yawns. It was a great primer for the night ahead, and a great performance on its own merit. The Yawns are a fuzzy, noisy, and echoed sound that also manages to remain melodic and rhythmic. They have gone through numerous lineup changes over the years with the one constant being founder, Ben Gmetro. But the group assembled on Thursday has been together for a few years now and there is a cohesiveness evident in their performance. The sound went nearly uninterrupted as band members switched instruments and began new songs, this wall of gray noise acts as a counterpoint to the often featherweight guitar and vocals. There were a few times when the music seemed to get lost in itself and its many competing elements, but this added a jam band sort of charm to the show that otherwise might have felt more regimented than they meant for it to be. I am relatively new to this band, but they are on all accounts an Ohio band that has become established as one of the more interesting gangs of noise makers and rarely do I enjoy “trippy” music this much. According to the bands website their next show will be at The Happy Dog in Cleveland on July 16.

Next up was the Brooklyn quartet Beach Fossils. Whether or not it is intentional, the bands name might give you a decent starting place as to the overall feel of their music, which is rife with almost droning vocals, simple rhythm, and guitar free of any effects other than a decent layering of fizz. When I was about seventeen I had a year or so spurt of listening almost exclusively to oldies and surf rock, The Beach Fossils are easily the closest things I have heard to any sort of reemergence of this classic sound aside from the much more aggressive Psychobilly sound of acts such as The Reverend Horton Heat or the album Don’t Back Down by punk classics The Queers. Beach Fossils is much more drowsy on the whole, and a bit less grooving, blended with this all however is a great balance of subtle noise and static and energy, it’s one of the more refreshing things I have heard in a while and I only hope they keep it up.

Recently The Fossils have gained a bit of pleasant controversy for their energetic and often chaotic performances, namely a bass guitar that ended up in a New York River. Sadly (or luckily, depending on how you view that sort of thing) there wasn't much of this on Thursday and all instruments remained in tact amongst the constant dancing. One thing that was very clear though is that just about everyone there was having fun and a quick glance around the audience revealed many bobbing heads and bodies, there were even some people doing the swim, Bobby Freeman would be proud indeed. In truth I could have never seen something like this act coming along (especially from the East), but I’m glad they did and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they started to pop up more and more as time goes on. If you like older surf inspired acts such as The Shadows but are looking for something a bit more fresh and lively you will probably enjoy The Beach Fossils. Their act was the highpoint of the night and if and when they come back around I will probably go see them again.

The final band to go on was Small Black, again from Brooklyn. I think I would have enjoyed this act more had it been part of another show, or even just presented differently. What I mean is that the first two bands were light and crisp, not to mention the lights were on and I didn't feel like I had stumbled in to a rave. When Black took the stage though the house lights went down and three giant, multicolored glow sticks came to life in front of the band, this coupled with the heavier sound and more traditional dance music flavor of the band made it seem like something of an odd man out. The guys have a great energy though, at times thoroughly evoking some of the electronic acts of the 90’s but without all the contrived beats and cheesy “vox”. Since the show I have looked the guys up and given them another go and have enjoyed everything I have heard. It was just and odd transition I think to suddenly feel out of place for not having eaten some sort of hallucinogen.

Like I said, if I get a chance to see either of these guys again I probably will. This show In Cleveland it was only seven dollars, and I think the crowd got more than their moneys worth.