Keeping a Cleveland rock club up and running for more than a decade is damn near as unfathomable as sitting through a Cavs game, or Fannie Lewis. But Kathy Simkoff has forged an indie-rock institution at the Grog Shop, the Coventry Road cubbyhole that's long been one of Cleveland's best clubs. With plans to relocate next spring, the Grog will celebrate its 10th anniversary this weekend with a two-day blowout featuring Mudhoney, Guided by Voices, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and more. Following are hazy memories of some of the Grog's greatest shows of the past few years:
Sleater-Kinney, with the Bangs (May 2000)
The sense of tension and release Sleater-Kinney creates is almost unparalleled, with Corin Tucker's cat-in-heat vocals and barbed guitar-playing creating the feeling of a perpetual crescendo. Sure, the band served up plenty of nouveau feminism, but it still managed to sound more punk than polemical -- a rare feat for most politically minded acts. The show ended with Sleater-Kinney, the Bangs, and half the audience onstage singing a loud, triumphant version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," an unforgettable moment that almost makes up for the fact that the song is now featured in blue jeans commercials.
System of a Down (August 1998)
Remember the scene in Full Metal Jacket where the fat guy gets an Ivory soap beat-down from all the other recruits? This show felt kinda like that. It was System of a Down's first headlining gig in town, and the only time it would play such a cozy venue, where fans could get up close and personal. What ensued was predictably combustible: a study in perpetual motion, with the band leering, leaping, and lunging for the audience members' throats. Yeah, you can now see them do the same thing in arenas and amphitheaters, but at the Grog, where the band played at arm's length from the audience, the threat was real.
Fifty Tons of Black Terror, with Groop Dogdrill (February 1999)
An overlooked, underattended show (about 50 people) showed up to see a pair of Britain's ballsiest. The shit first hit the fan when Groop Dogdrill frontman Pete Spiby donned a bizarre, S&M-looking mask with a microphone taped to it, then rolled around onstage, shrieking and swearing his way through a din of raw, tuneless man-rock. Fifty Tons then sealed the deal with what sounded like the Jesus Lizard duking it out with the Blues Explosion in a back alley.
Zen Guerrilla, with the Chargers Street Gang (October 2001)
We were knocked on our heels by this show: Standing up front during the Chargers' set meant getting shoved around a bit, as frontman Joe Holzheimer seemingly bounded offstage every other song, swinging his tambourine as if he were trying to extinguish a fire. It was worth all the spilled beer, though. The Chargers' excitement was palpable, and they shook their asses and instruments with equal aplomb. Not to be outdone, Zen Guerrilla began by counterpoising the Chargers' breathless rumble with twisted, serpentine blues. Lumbering lead singer Mark Durant -- think Frankenstein with an Afro -- taunted the crowd by pulling up a stool onstage. But the band's sedate material eventually grew more and more raucous, climaxing with an out-of-control acid blues jam.
Jucifer (January 2002)
Jucifer's first proper Cleveland performance is impossible to forget, and not just because our ears are still ringing. The band prepped for its set by filling the stage with big-ass amps, forcing singer-guitarist Amber Valentine and drummer Ed Livengood to play from the very lip of the stage. Livengood -- a man who hits his drums so hard, he actually dislocates his wrists from time to time -- was snorting, sweating, and spitting like a thoroughbred. Valentine let loose with one of the most toe-curling guitar tones ever: Imagine the buzz of a wasp's nest fed through Marshall stacks, and you get the idea.
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