Show Review

Down Here At the Grog Shop

The Lorax Tree W/ The Heights, RareBirds, and Aliver Hall

“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can”
- Danny Kaye (1913-1987)
Chad W. Lutz
That’s exactly what they did. I wasn’t quite sure what Matt Brower, bassist for The Lorax Tree meant by “complete live experience” when I first got his email inviting me out to the Grog Shop on September 4th. But by the end of the second act, completely entranced by local artist Justin Roberts’ (above) elemental take on the classic mountain landscape, I understood exactly what he meant.

Armed with my photographer, I made my way up to the Grog with little to no expectations. I had checked the website earlier that day to listen in on some of the bands that were going to be playing, most notably The Heights Band from Barberton, who basically blew the lid right off the house with their insane take on the down and dirty blues. The venue hadn’t even started letting people in when I arrived, giving me the chance to sit down with members of The Heights to talk Cleveland for a bit (mainly about how depressing the upcoming Cavs season is going to inevitably be and the almost hilarious [if they didn’t sting like a syringe full of bleach] off-season blunders of Dan Gilbert and Co.). After about twenty minutes of watching some amateur parcours enthusiasts nearly snap their necks in two, they began letting people file in and we made our way inside.

The Grog Shop, located off Coventry Rd on the East Side of Cleveland, has been in the business of blowing minds since 1992 (the days when livin’ with Louie Dog was the only way to stay sane). Rather intimate and gritty, the venue opens up as you walk through the door into a dimly lit stage area with a wall-to-wall bar running along the right hand side. The color scheme is red and black (UC!), with massive pillars holding the joint up dotted here and there across the dance floor directly in front of the stage. People filed in and out slowly, but consistently, throughout the evening, with the crowd reaching it’s fullest potential around 10pm just as The Heights Band took the stage. There were types of every stereo, with a couple barefoot hippies present leading the transcendental tango; hands to the heavens.
The first band to play, Aliver Hall from Akron, greeted the crowd with an eclectic mix of energetic jam pop rock that hinted at its classical influence playing a resonating cover of “Dear Prudence” I won’t soon forget. After their set, DJ Havok took over the job of generating sound, and with Justin Robert’s help, turned the venue into an episode of The Joy of Painting on ecstasy (Paint Rave! [think about that one]). With a crowd of about thirty on-lookers, Justin Roberts went to work putting paint to portrait to the club music gurgling dangerously close to “The Brown Note.” It was cool to watch the creative process in action and watch Roberts gain spire right in front of our very eyes as the painting took shape and came to life. I later asked him if this was the first time The Lorax Tree had collaborated with him on a project like this and he told me that it wasn’t.

“No, we actually do this all the time,” reaffirmed Brower after the show was over. I was surprised to hear this, thinking that my own similar idea was the first of its kind. I always wondered what it would be like to mold and mesh mediums into one fantastic, thrill-filled evening of music and mosaic mayhem. Now I know. The miracle has happened.
The Heights Band showcases their signature form of thrash and bash blues.
The evening wore on with The Heights Band (above) literally putting the, “oh,” in show. My photographer said he had never seen a bassist get so into a performance before (props to you, Kyle). But props are due to the whole band, who never seem to hold anything back and always leave the stage like they had just been through battle. The Rarebirds came on next and enlisted the help of guitarist Neal Campbell as they, tongue-in-cheek, rocked the crowd while psychedelic snip-its of Kill Bill danced wildly on the backdrop. Video artist Jon Mancinetti was on hand to provide the psychedelic visual entertainment.

“Thank you,” shouted the drummer after the crowd received one of their songs with a roaring applause.

“Your welcome,” one brave and liquored fan shot back when the room reached that awkward crawl towards silence after all clapping had ceased.

Seemingly humbled and impressed, the drummer thanked him for being the only person who had apparently taken to an ethics class in the crowd.

Finally, around midnight or so, The Lorax Tree took to the stage and made quick work of sending all of us out there somewhere near Jupiter (or was it Saturn?). Their spacey sound I described as “weird”, with a smile, at the show, during another such awkward crawl, filled every square inch of space in the room. With dissonant guitar riffs that seemed to reach and reach and reach and the intense thundering drumming of the curly and capricious Dylan Gomez, the instrumental psychedelic techno jam rock whipped through the crowd like a wildfire and into an internal frenzy, ready to combust at command. One fan, who had to have known these guys personally because he kept shouting, “BROWER IS A SEXY BEAST!” at the tops of his lungs, must’ve succumbed to the bands mind-melting capabilities at one point because he lost control of his beer (which inexplicably happened more than once) and sent it flying across the crowd to land effervescing innocently on the stage right next to the bare feet of Brower, who kept right on rocking.
The Grog Shop, looking more like a page torn straight from a Dr. Seuss book, under the spell of The Lorax Tree.
After the show I had a chance to meet up with the guys, who, like The Heights Band, are excited about their upcoming shows and are playing Sunday (9/12/2010) at the Zane Shawnee in Bellefontaine.

I keep telling my friends that the next big era of rock music won’t happen without the 216 or 330 somewhere in the mix. With artists like Kid Cudi, The Black Keys, and NE Ohio’s long standing tradition in the vein of Rock N’ Roll, Ohio has been on the music map since Salem, Ohio’s own Alan Freed popularized the phrase back in 1951. This was just another new chapter in the Book of Rock N’ Roll, and even though this article stands as a fairly precise account of the event, I’m still a little groggy about what I witnessed (but probably just a little dazed and confused).

*Special thanks to Matt Brower and The Lorax Tree for having us out, to Joshua-Kareem-Abdul-Hammertime-Zawiski-Jackson for the photos, and to The Heights Band, just for being sweet.