Hellooo, Cleveland! 

In this town, even the lamps have personality.

Don Felder and his doubleneck guitar set the tone at the Rock Hall  benefit Friday, May 12. - ROLL HALL OF FAME
  • Roll Hall of Fame
  • Don Felder and his doubleneck guitar set the tone at the Rock Hall benefit Friday, May 12.
Hey there, Cleveland. I know we haven't been properly introduced; then again, I'm the type of guy everyone knows is in the house long before they actually meet him. See, I never learned an indoor voice. That, and I'm half deaf from rock concerts.

I'm your new music editor, if you'll have me. While I was not democratically elected (who is, these days?), I hope to rule with a velvet fist. Some of you may choose to view me as liberator. To you I say: Get in line; I hear bribery's big around here. (Glad to call it home.)

. . . Have you ever considered becoming an ottoman or maybe a slingback chair? If so, you're in luck, because in an apparent attempt to import some coastal culture into flyover country, the Rock Hall one-upped Ikea last week.

Friday's benefit for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was billed as "No Speeches, No Tuxes, It's Only Rock and Roll." They didn't say anything about human furniture, but there they were, on the table, wearing a lampshade, standing still so as not to attract attention -- as if such a thing were possible. Now, many of us have worn a lampshade for fun, but never for money, and there's the rub. Evidently local end tables and coatracks are up in arms over the Hall's use of unskilled (read: nonunion) furniture.

The furniture I talked to (two gals and a bare-chested fella) said they were being well compensated, and they were also allowed to join the press and landed gentry, er, wealthy contributors, on the convention-center floor, away from the rabble who paid $10 for what were essentially bleacher seats. There the Furniture People could indulge at the open bar, where they might have overheard one patron telling another (as I did), "The restaurants in Aruba are terrific," and -- Natalee Holloway aside -- "It's quite safe."

Setting the evening's tone was keynote performer Don Felder, who opened with a rendition of "Hotel California," which he played on a double-neck, 18-string guitar, in homage to that era and culture of excess. I had already experienced it firsthand, from the Porsche SUV (called "Cayenne," natch) parked on the plaza to the strange, spinning mime, who looked suspiciously like Padme from Star Wars and undulated disturbingly on a platform above the wet bars.

The last thing I remember, I was running for the door.

. . . I've lived in places that have witnessed huge scene explosions (Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, Brooklyn), and an important element -- other than luck and timing -- is the camaraderie of the scene. From the New York hardcore explosion of the mid-'80s to Brooklyn's dance-punk renaissance, it's always been about bootstrapping each other up, sharing gigs, tours -- even fans.

Events like last weekend's Cleveland Music Festival, with over 200 bands at a dozen venues in three days, go a long way.

This year's lineup featured a number of acts nominated for the Scene Music Awards, including Goodmorning Valentine, Jami Ross, and Audiblethread. Though obviously a logistical nightmare for those putting it together, the festival came off fine, offering a terrific opportunity to sample the broad spectrum of the local scene.

It also attracted a major national act: Avenged Sevenfold, which showed up after taking batting practice at Jacobs Field and performing at Tower City Amphitheater.

Judging the group from afar, with an eye toward lead singer M. Shadows' tireless self-promotion, I'd dismissed it as a bunch of poseurs.

A little truism of rock journalism is that even the worst bands feature good people as members. Jason Pettigrew, editor of Cleveland-based Alternative Press, abbreviates this principle as G2B2, or "good guys, bad band." And after meeting Brian Haner Jr., the fedora-wearing guitarist who calls himself "Synyster Gates," I might have to reconsider my position on AV7X.

Speaking with me about the band's recent spate of bad press, Haner said, "We've never paid the press any mind. We've been friends a long time -- many of us since second grade -- and we just do what we do."

Amen to that, brother. Glad to meet you, Cleveland.


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