Ask Zero Rain drummer Chris Winder what he thinks Cleveland's happy-hour secret is, and he comes up with this gem: "I've never seen a place, ever, where people go out after work in business attire, don't go home and shower, and drink until two-thirty in the morning."
Since 1999, the Columbus quartet has crisscrossed the Midwest with a playlist of pop-rock covers -- from Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." But in September, it'll release its first all-original CD under a yet-to-be-named alter ego. "If you're playing other people's music, you're not a rock star," says Winder. "We got over the ego thing a long time ago, but Cleveland is bringing in more quality, original acts. We want to be a part of that."
But don't count on the foursome to retire the Zero Rain moniker just yet. "We're not going to stop the cover thing, because we have a lot of equity built up," says Winder. "It's a lot of fun, and it's a great second part-time job for all of us." Zero Rain performs at 10 p.m. Friday at the Blind Pig, 1228 West 6th Street. Admission is free; call 216-621-0001. -- Cris Glaser
PEZ convention gives collectors something to chew on.
Cultural icons with oversized heads and super-slim bodies -- and we're not talking about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan -- get their props in Independence this weekend. Collectors, fans, and dealers take part in PEZamania 15, a celebration of the world's coolest candy dispenser. "It's different from a Star Wars or Star Trek convention, because there are no costumes," says organizer Jill Cohen. In addition to games and seminars, you can gawk at rarities like mini PEZes (sold exclusively in Japanese vending machines) and old-school designs. "There's a nostalgia factor," says Cohen. Plus, "You can have a really great collection in a very small space." PEZamaniacs gather from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn, 6001 Rockside Road in Independence. Admission is $15; call 216-524-8050. -- Chris Miller
Homegrown comic book wins contest by mocking the competition.
With manga titles taking up more space in comic-book shops, local writers Rob Kaulfersch and Mike Schwark think the time is ripe to skewer Japanese graphic novels. For Van Von Hunter, "we took the concepts of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and turned them into an actual story," says Kaulfersch, referring to the cult TV show that ridiculed B-movies. The pair won publisher Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga competition with their tale of a monster hunter and his amnesiac sidekick. "We always feared that manga fans would not accept us," says Kaulfersch. "But they've been fairly receptive." They talk about their book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, 198 Crocker Park Boulevard in Westlake. Admission is free; call 440-250-9233. -- Michael Gallucci
Man With a Plan
Here's more proof that old-school hip-hop totally blows away the new class: 1988, the solo debut by Soul Position's Blueprint, who lifts rhymes, beats, and breaks from KRS-One, Run-D.M.C., and Doug E. Fresh. It's tight, playful stuff, spiked with '88-style cuts and scratches. He rocks the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights) at 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $8; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci