Music critics will probably never find Cleveland all that sexy. Let the rock hacks fawn over the long legs of Detroit, Austin, and Seattle -- we're rivaling them all down the runway. Northeast Ohio artists have dropped some of the hottest albums of the year, from rock (Cobra Verde's Easy Listening) to metal (Chimaira's The Impossibility of Reason) to blues (the Black Keys' Thickfreakness). Half a dozen bands have major-label deals, and half a dozen more are being courted. Combined with a steady stream of indie releases that are making waves nationally -- from Kiddo to Party of Helicopters -- it all adds up to a banner year for regional bands.

Cleveland's finally starting to hear the catcalls, starting to walk with that strut. And why not? As the musicians that follow show, we're looking pretty damn good.


After dominating this category for half a decade, we've retired Mushroomhead from the music awards, where they scored more often than Ashton Kutcher. Something tells us we'll probably have to do the same with Chimaira next year: 2003 is shaping up to be a monster for the fast-rising five-piece. After the band's seething sophomore LP for Roadrunner Records, The Impossibility of Reason, moved more than 8,300 copies its first week out in May, Chimaira hit the road with thrash notables Lamb of God and In Flames before being added to the Ozzfest second stage this summer. By blending coarse, toe-curling vox with fist-pumping, trad-metal riffing and touches of black melody, Chimaira has positioned itself at the front of the American metal underground.

The brutes in Boulder also incorporate old-school metal mayhem into their curled-lip charge. They're all about blazing dual-guitar action and strangulated vocals that sound like Satan losing his lunch. Frontman Jamie Walter's equally horny and hilarious lyrics make Ted Nugent a beef-eating Baudelaire in comparison. Still making the rounds in support of last year's seismic Reaped in Half (TeePee), Boulder puts the flying V in "heavy."

Since spring, Jamie Walters has doubled as drummer for the melodic metal combo Abdullah, a supergroup of sorts that also features members of Keelhaul, Breaker, and Vanduls Ugainst Alliteracy. Though the band's new lineup hasn't recorded together yet, its excellent 2002 release Graveyard Poetry remains a metal must-have: Driven by the upper-register wail of singer Jeff Shirilla (one of the best vocalists in local metal) and riffs the size of Godzilla's manhood, it's got girth and groove to spare.

The cut-ups in Keelhaul intermingle dexterous riffing with acrobatic drumming and vocals seemingly delivered through clenched teeth. And with song titles like "Lackadaisical Chinese Tube Socks," the band tempers the severity with a smile. Since last summer, Keelhaul has toured Europe and landed the coveted opening slot on the recent Unsane reunion tour. The guys are now in Boston, recording their anticipated third LP.

End of Trust, the latest album from Cleveland knuckle-dusters N.D.E. , should end the band's anonymity on a national level. More concise and carefully arranged than previous efforts, Trust combines hooks and heaviness better than most other metalcore albums. The band signed a deal with rising metal indie Crash Records (Diano, Diamond Rexx) earlier in the year, and next month it embarks on a national tour with labelmates Brick Bath and Single Bullet Theory. Expect all guns to be blazing. -- Jason Bracelin


By recording with Phil Collins and touring with the Insane Clown Posse, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have officially become a novelty act, rap's whoopee cushion. Though Bone brought considerable attention to North Coast rap, the scene was stereotyped by the band's distinctive, diesel-fueled delivery. And Cleveland hasn't had a breakout act since. That could change with the rise of the Chop Shop Renegades, a diverse, dynamic collective of producers and MCs. They're led by Midnight Oil, a promising foursome that blends old-school beats with venomous rhymes. Chop Shop keeps it both commercial and conscious, delving into R&B, reggae, and radio-friendly rap while never forsaking the sound of the streets.

When it comes to rockin' the block, few do it better than Jay Kool. One of Cleveland's most popular MCs, Jay Kool's rugged flow is deep and intimidating, like the growl of a Rottweiler. His recent EP, "Anything I Wanna Say" (Nina Raw), is roughneck rap at its finest, full of more boasts, taunts, and threats than an NFL locker room.

Iyan Anomolie is just as raw, though his grit comes from a different source: dark, grimy basement production. "We're making hip-hop classics with minimum technology," he boasts on 2002's Kinetic Potential, a rough-sounding but essential LP of galvanized indie hip-hop. With a voice as entrancing as fine reefer, Anomolie's wizened wordplay is poetic and invigorating. "I'm trying to elevate the audience," he announces on Potential. Consider the stakes raised.

After being named artist of the year at the Scene Music Awards in 2000 and the best hip-hop act in 2000 and 2001, Akron's Poets of Another Breed rival Mushroomhead and Robert Lockwood Jr. as the area's most decorated performers. Catch this band in concert, where they bring more energy than the Illuminating Company, and you'll understand why. A six-piece that combines dueling MCs with live instrumentation, the Poets are hard to top onstage or on wax. The band's latest, The Akronite, is a mix of deep, percussive grooves and frantic wordplay that's pretty much the sound of sweat.

Sultry songstress Conya Doss is the lone R&B nominee this year, but as she demonstrated on her wonderful 2002 debut, A Poem About Ms. Doss, she doesn't really have much competition when it comes to Cleveland soul. With a voice that's both powerful and pliant, Doss is one dynamic diva, capable of everything from beatific ballads to sassy funk work-ups. She's been called the female D'Angelo, an apt comparison. But Brown Sugar never tasted this sweet. -- Jason Bracelin


Though the bands in this category come clad in black, their gloom is balanced by their bright futures. Among the most successful acts of its kind in the country, the atmospheric goth duo Midnight Syndicate has become a worldwide favorite in haunted houses and among the gaming community for its spooky, spectral works. The band has sold close to 150,000 copies of its four CDs, and its music has been featured everywhere from Monday Night Football to the Today show. They've won such big-name fans as King Diamond, Rob Zombie, and Hugh Hefner, and show no signs of losing momentum: Their latest, Vampyre: Symphonies From the Crypt, is scary good, full of ominous synth, hair-raising strings, and doleful organ befitting a Vincent Price movie.

In less than two years, Filament 38 is already making national headway with its electric debut, Fractured (Negative Gain). A mix of stentorian vocals, hydraulic beats, and snarling synth, Fractured embraces many of industrial's main signifiers and weds them to more economical songcraft and shades of black pop. The result is one of the few albums of its kind that's as catchy as it is coldhearted.

State of Being is industrial's long-running local favorite. Making the rounds since the early '90s, the band has damn near perfected its blend of melodic machine music and affecting electropop. Currently in the studio finishing a follow-up to last year's Implosion, the five-piece has done more to keep the industrial flame alive than any other group in the area. It continues to be one of the scene's most impassioned acts, with hot-blooded vocals and throbbing guitar that mesh with purring synth.

Progressive electronic duo Twine couldn't be more unlike its competition. But despite the aesthetic differences, Twine shares an aura of adventurousness with its fellow nominees. A local leader in forward-thinking IDM and abstruse electronic soundscapes, Twine has become renowned worldwide for its heady, perpetually morphing drone. A wholly unpredictable combination of amorphous beats, peals of static, and equally beautiful and haunting rhythms, Twine has become an international name by recording with such labels as Sweden's Komplott and France's Bip-Hop.

As sensual as Twine is scarifying, the Akron three-piece Racermason blends the ethereal vocals of singer Mandy Lascko with percolating beats and seductive rhythms. With touches of trip-hop underlaid with lush guitar, their 2002 debut, With Everything, is a heavy-breathing heartstopper. It'll get you and yours speeding toward the bedroom. -- Jason Bracelin


Cleveland will always be known for rock more than country, and the nominated artists reflect as much: Short on traditionalists, these acts crank country up a notch with touches of rock and blues.

Hayshaker Jones makes music that's tough and sweet at the same time. Tear-jerker or toe-tapper, it makes no difference: Hayshaker whacks the country nail square on the head. The band recalls Buck Owens and, through him, Dwight Yoakam and Gram Parsons. If anyone can find a complaint, it's in Clint Holley's voice, which might not have the requisite twang some country aficionados demand. No such problems exist with Dave Bowling, whose pained vocals have a dash more soul. Unless this quintet beats it to Nashville, Hayshaker Jones should be on the local radar screen for a long time.

Howard Micenmacher doesn't mind the label "alternative country." The leader of Al's Fast Freight (named for his father's trucking business) sees the moniker as a dead giveaway that any band or artist has the music more in mind than the image -- an alternative to the cookie-cutter slickness of big-time country radio. Around since the early 1990s, Al's Fast Freight is ragged and proud. It mixes its country with rock, folk, and blues, and takes the stage with unbridled energy. The band has released two indie-label CDs, Interstate 90 and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, plus the self-released Murder, and has opened for national acts as diverse as the Jerry Garcia Band, Tracy Byrd, the Outlaws, Wayne Hancock, and David Allan Coe.

Of all the acts in the Cleveland vicinity, Terry Lee Goffee probably best fits Nashville's idea of what a country music star should be. Born in Cambridge and living in Wellington, Goffee is fashioned in the mold of Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery, and Tim McGraw, to name a few of the superstars whose songs he's covered. He's released four gospel CDs, a Christmas album, a CD of patriotic songs, and four albums of original material. With a deep, moving delivery, Goffee has earned an armload of awards from independent country-music associations, including Male Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Christian Country Artist of the Year in 2000.

Gary Lupico is one guy who knows the score. He will tell you that his band, California Speedbag, plays true country music -- it's Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and Toby Keith who play alternative country. He'll add that California Speedbag, which has been in business for more than 20 years, was doing alt-country before the phrase was coined. To him, it's all just about making the working class forget its troubles in a friendly dive for a few hours. But on CS's first CD release, this year's The Fire of Misery (Smog Veil), there's also plenty of wit to go around. Who can't fall for such lines as "Who died and left you Marilyn Monroe?", "Keep the home fries burning, baby," and "Am I on your shit list, Jesus?"

While certainly not a country act in the traditional sense, the rip-snortin' wail of Eddie Brunswick & the Flaming Tailfins has its share of touchstones to honky-tonk: namely, lots of songs about drinkin,' lovin,' and the damage done by both. Driven by rollicking slap bass and four-on-the-floor guitar, the Tailfins' debauched hellbilly is the soundtrack for dirt-track racin' and Skoal chawin.' Together for four years, this three-piece is primed to kick out the deep-fried jams, just as long as their livers will last. -- Steve Byrne


The liberating promise of punk is that anyone can pick up an instrument and play what they want to play, however they want to play it. Cleveland's nominated bands rise to the challenge, blasting out a wide-ranging mix of hardcore and punk of all stripes.

Though they've called it a day, the Chargers Street Gang won't soon be forgotten -- mainly because ears are still ringing from their over-the-top gigs. One of the finest live bands around, the Chargers made their shows all about raw riffs, rough edges, and racing rhythms. Frontman Joe Holzheimer was out in the crowd as much as he was onstage, banging a tambourine while he banged into onlookers. Guitarist Lachlan MacKinnon would crack wise, while fellow six-stringer Chris Kulcsar jumped about as if his pants were on fire. Hot stuff.

The Sign-Offs' recent work with John Mellencamp producer Mike Wanchic came as a hard-won surprise. Their slot at the Aerosmith tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a more natural matchup: With just a touch of retro glam and a grungy low end, the Sign-Offs' ya-yas hang out, and the music does the talkin'. The demo-stage acoustic cut "My Yoshino" says an extra volume or two, as does their appearance on Jackass Steve-O's Don't Try This at Home video.

Allergic to Whores are out the door and on the Warped Tour. In a year when the everybody-who's-anybody punk road show is weighted toward the music's subdued, poppier side, these crusty punks are flailing themselves into a frenzy. The bracing hardcore and screamo flourishes on the band's latest, Life Through Death's Eyes, will be exactly what Midwest Warpgoers are hankerin' for.

Metalcore phenoms 13 Faces might be the perfect specimen from a breaking wave of bands that fit the metal or hardcore classification equally well. If the strong word of mouth and punishing pits that greeted the midyear release of the band's debut, These Bloody Hands, are reliable indicators, 13 Faces cannot be stopped; they can only be contained, and they won't be Clevocore's best-kept secret for long.

Gigging constantly, the Vacancies have been plenty present over the last year. Maybe the greatest sign that they're the real deal is their status as the de facto designated opening act for visiting punk greats, including the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators, and the Circle Jerks. Their wax debut, 2002's Gutpunch (Smog Veil), captures their live energy, insidious hooks, and rollicking six-string action. -- D.X. Ferris


The usual suspects from Cleveland's jazz overground represent Cleveland's occasionally vital jazz scene, as well as its fragmentation. For instance, mellifluous pianist Cliff Habian holds down regular gigs at Nighttown and Nordstrom's, the Beachwood Place department store. Possessing a wonderfully romantic streak, Habian's playing is stylish and muscular. Habian has performed all over the world, including Russia, Thailand, and Panama, and has dropped a quartet of lauded CDs.

Dominick Farinacci is a young trumpeter making his mark both here and in New York. The Juilliard student has already released a pair of albums and is one of the most promising artists of his kind to come from Cleveland in years. A protégé of Wynton Marsalis, Farinacci is a spirited, exciting talent.

One of the most adventurous musicians among the nominees is the versatile Howie Smith, who works in formats spanning world music and electronica, and presents memorable concerts at Cleveland State University. Possibly the finest saxophonist in Cleveland, Smith plays in a bold, experimental, and invigorating style.

The ubiquitous and subtle guitar touch of Bob Fraser graces pickup bands as well as the Jazz Unit, which powered a memorable Frank Zappa tribute at this year's Tri-C JazzFest. A member of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra as well as the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Fraser has played with everybody from Pavarotti to Rayu Parker. An inventive bandleader, Fraser plays in an expressive and endearing style.

Ernie Krivda is Cleveland's version of the Texas tenor giant. The accomplished saxophonist is a throwback to the music of a bygone era, namely the '30s and '40s. As the leader of the Fat Tuesday Big Band, Krivda specializes in vintage swing. Tackling everyone from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington, he leads his band through its paces with soul and verve. -- Carlo Wolff


Cleveland is best known for its hard-hitting metal and punk, but the local scene is as much about breadth as bombast. It's a polka powerhouse and a surprisingly strong haven for reggae. Drumplay employs conch shells, congos, bongos, marimba, and just about anything else that makes a sound when you strike it, producing some of the most vibrant music in Cleveland for more than a decade now. Under the Map of the World Where I Sleep, recorded live in Belgium last summer during the band's tour of Europe, is a dazzling mix of pulse-pounding African instrumentation and left-of-center recitations from Cleveland's poet laureate, Daniel Thompson.

Carlos Jones has been making the rounds for more than 20 years. Jones originally came to prominence as the frontman for First Light, one of Cleveland's most respected reggae outfits. These days, he leads the Peace Love & Unity Syndicate (P.L.U.S. Band), a traditionalist reggae troupe that blends lilting harmonies with words of empowerment. Among the town's top reggae draws, Carlos Jones has done as much as any man to bring the irie vibe to the Erie basin.

Jamaican native Istan Black has recorded with such legendary producers as Lee "Scratch" Perry, Earl "Chinna" Smith, and Sir Lord Comic. He relocated to Cleveland in 1997, and since then he's dropped some of the most deeply soulful sounds this town has heard. Backed by a pair of singers dubbed the Sweets, Black's weathered timbre is stark and stunning, making his last release, 1998's Fatal Struggle, one of the finest of its kind to come out of Cleveland.

Ras T. Dubflex represents reggae's second wave. Incorporating dancehall and R&B into classic roots reggae, he's one of the genre's more diverse performers. Last year's Breathe established Dubflex as one the area's most powerful reggae voices, with impressive range and rhythm. A keyboardist as well as a singer, he has toured with Jamaica's storied Meditations as well as New York's Rising Lion.

Harmonia's jubilant blend of Hungarian, Romanian, and Croatian influences is just as luminous as the band's reggae brethren. The septet incorporates accordion, violin, taragot, pan flute, and other instruments into a vigorous blend of ethnic sounds. Energetic and infectious, the band reinterprets traditional folk with sass and verve, creating a sound that's every bit as mellifluous as the name implies. -- Jason Bracelin


The singer-songwriter is the one artist who knows no genre. These days, singer-songwriters abound in punk (Dashboard Confessional), pop (Michelle Branch), R&B (Cody Chesnutt), and just about every other phylum of music you can name. That diversity is reflected in the nominees that follow.

Kent's Florence Dore is most often likened to Lucinda Williams, and the fact that such comparisons can even be made with a straight face is a testament to the quality of Dore's work. With dusty, roots-inflected numbers that sway drunkenly between romance and hell raising, Dore's rough-hewn country rock is rancorous and reflective, as evidenced by 2001's stirring Perfect City (Slew Foot). By day, Dore is a literature professor at Kent State. By night, she's a hard-livin' songstress, whose rough-and-tumble tunes shine as bright as the stars above.

Hard-luck tales don't cloud the life of Connor O'Brien. The photogenic pop singer doesn't drink, smoke, or write all the songs he performs. But in a day when ssuch pop-oriented crooners as Vanessa Carlton and John Mayer are coming to the fore among singer-songwriters, O'Brien represents a new breed of performer. His slick songs are both plucky and irresistible. A classically trained singer, O'Brien boasts a tenor that's powerful and unwavering.

Mike Farley is a radio-friendly troubadour with his eyes on your transistor. But where Connor O'Brien's tunes are spry and lissome, Farley's are more about subtlety and sophistication. Taking a page from emotive rockers such as Hootie & the Blowfish and the Counting Crows, Farley crafts one airtight tune after the next, topping them off with excellent production. His latest self-released affair, 2002's Blue, is slick and rousing; it sounds as if it could have come from a major label.

There's no commercial sheen to the music of Brian Straw, Cleveland's finest indie minstrel. Contrasting his plaintive singing with bursts of jagged guitar and squalls of feedback, Straw's breathtaking ballads are somehow contemplative and jarring at once. His debut album, 2000's Once You're Lost You're Encouraged to Stay, is still his defining moment: a small album with a big heart, given to unleashing sheaths of noise capable of rattling fillings loose.

The music of Michael Jantz requires patience, and this is a good thing. Possessing a unique high-tenor delivery, Jantz creates heady, intricate songs, rich in sentiment and ambition. In 2001, he made the rounds opening for the Paul Simon/Brian Wilson tour, and last year he dropped his stinging self-titled debut. Colorful and captivating, Michael Jantz boasts everything from sullen torch songs and gentle pop to strains of honky-tonk and Latin-tinged numbers spicy enough to make your eyes water. -- Jason Bracelin

Hard Rock

Fit it with a cup, and Cleveland's hard rock scene would be just like Anaheim slugger Garret Anderson: They're both underrated as all get-out. First off, Disengage is one of the finest unsigned bands in the country. It expertly mates the bombast of Zeppelin with the bare-knuckle fury of Black Flag, but it's been looking for a U.S. deal ever since its former label, Man's Ruin, fell apart last year. For now, Disengage remains rock and roll's best-kept secret.

If Disengage has positioned itself at the front of underground rock, Switched is doing the same on the mainstream level. Led by white-hot producer Ben Schigel, the band is working on the follow-up to 2002's combustible Subject to Change, a fiery shot of hook-laden hard rock that sold more than 40,000 copies. An early listen to the new material reveals much promise: A more striking, streamlined affair, it tempers the band's aggressiveness ever so slightly, in favor of soaring melodies and a guitar crunch that sounds like a 20-car pileup.

Schigel has also left his fingerprints on fellow nominees Erase the Grey, whose debut EP "27 Days" Schigel helped craft. The record -- five songs of sterling modern rock, full of roaring guitars and adrenalized choruses -- marks the band's debut with Universal, with which it signed just months after making its first performance. One listen to "27 Days" makes it easy to hear why there was a bidding war over the band.

Kent's enveloping Party of Helicopters recently signed with the notable indie label Velocette (Jucifer, Beulah). A cross between My Bloody Valentine and Metallica, PoH pairs fuzzed-out psychedelic riffs with stoned vocals, birthing a sound that's bracingly blissed-out. The band's latest, Please Believe It, is lush and emotive, a near-perfect blend of muscle and melancholy. Who knew Megadeth fans had feelings too?

Red Giant recently expanded from a power trio to a four-piece, yielding a dense wall of sound that's mammoth and overpowering. Equal parts baked blues and wayward space rock, the band has become a national favorite among reefer-rockers. Red Giant's still working on the follow-up to 1999's excellent Ultramagnetic Glowing Sound; in the meantime, the band's impossibly heavy live shows indicate that the next album is worth the wait. -- Jason Bracelin


Not only does this category span a variety of styles -- from psych rock to indie pop to glam -- it spans nations as well: Dakota Floyd frontwoman Sorca McGrath lived in Ireland before relocating to Cleveland in 2000 to start one of the town's finest rock troupes. The band's self-titled debut EP is three songs of winsome pop with beauty and backbone. McGrath's voice is supple yet sturdy, the perfect backdrop for Dakota Floyd's agile pop, capable of going from aching to attitudinal in an instant.

There's attitude for days in the pouty lips of Jaded Era frontwoman Kira Leyden. But Jaded Era would rather smile than smirk, and the band's latest, Invisible, is so gleefully energetic, you'd swear Red Bull courses through their veins. The quartet's high-kicking pop rock is perfect for aerobics classes or marathon sessions of Tae Bo, but Jaded Era is also capable of being mellow and moving. From buoyant ballads meant to get Bics flicking to glib rockers meant to get fists in the air, Jaded Era seems destined to raise appendages and eyebrows alike.

The Volta Sound lays down stately jams rooted in the sunshine and sensimilla of the '60s. From beatific folk musings to psychedelic guitar work-ups, the band is both engaging and entrancing. Its latest EP, "Fast Light With Radio Signal," is a 30-minute reverie flush with disembodied vocals, wandering guitar, and impressionistic lyrics. Since signing with California's Orange Sky Records last year, the band has won acclaim nationwide for its radiant rock and roll.

No stranger to critical accolades, Cleveland's Cobra Verde has gotten raves in just about every publication imaginable, from Rolling Stone to Playboy. The band's latest, Easy Listening, is one of the best rock records of the year -- local or otherwise -- marked by coiled guitar and caustic come-ons. Frontman John Petkovic's voice drips with drama and detachment, while his band drips with sweat. Part the steam, and you'll come eyeball to eyeball with a rock-and-roll band as decadent as dessert.

There's nothing decadent about Kiddo, though the trio is as sugary as they come. The band's wonderful self-titled debut, released in March on Michigan's Drive-In Records, pulses with the joy of first crushes, youthful innocence, and exuberance. Chirping boy/girl vocals, brisk caffeinated guitars, and hard-hitting drums congeal into one single after another. It's the sound of summer. -- Jason Bracelin


Screw Jon Spencer -- in 2003, Northeast Ohio has had a blues explosion of its own, evidenced by the continued success of the acts that follow.

For a band that knocks down nearly 300 shows per year, it would be hard to dispute the claim that Colin Dussault's Blues Project is the hardest-working blues outfit in town. The burly West Sider's band has been at it since 1989, garnering numerous awards for both the band and Dussault's harmonica skills. He's known for his ability to work country and dance crowds as well as bars full of blues fans.

Glen Schwartz's bio makes for compelling reading. A bona fide guitar wunderkind, he regularly sat in with blues legends as a teenager. He took his phenomenal rep national in the '60s and was critically anointed to follow Jimi and Eric as a guitar deity. But then the excesses of the rock-and-roll big time drove Schwartz to fundamentalist Christianity. Performing since 1977 alongside his affable brother Gene on bass, he merges apocalyptic sermonizing with fire of a musical nature.

Robert Johnson was so protective of his licks, he reputedly played with his back to the audience if he suspected some cat was trying to learn them. The exception to the Delta master's stinginess? His longtime companion Stella Lockwood's young son Robert. With this tutelage and a love of jazz bands to draw upon, "Robert Jr." would develop from Delta journeyman to key contributor to the golden era of Chicago blues, defining the art of backing harmonica aces such as Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter, and mentoring a young B.B. King along the way. He wasn't planning on staying when he hit Cleveland in 1960. Fortunately for us, love and marriage kept him here. When not trotting the globe, Robert Lockwood still holds court downtown at Fat Fish Blue. We should all do so well at 88.

Ever since the British Invasion, new generations have rediscovered blues and R&B roots: bands whose raw enthusiasm charges the music and whose apparent irreverence causes purists to pull their hair out. Add the Akron duo of guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, a.k.a. the Black Keys, to this lineage. Summoning the spirit of bands such as the Yardbirds on their latest blistering LP, Thickfreakness, the Keys remind us what bashing fun the blues can be. -- Duane Verh


Last year, Scene's nominees for Best DJ in Cleveland stood out from their peers in a special way: They were all bringing recognition to the city through their studio work, banging out tunes for other DJs around the country to play. This year, the nominees are making a nationwide impact the old-fashioned way: through the quality and freshness of their work on the turntables.

DJs G Spot and Mick Boogie, two of the top dogs in Cleveland hip-hop, are building their reputations through the mixes they put together. G Spot compiles several sets every week for airplay on radio stations in Monterey, Nashville, Auburn, Augusta, and on XM Satellite Radio, where he spins everything from radio-friendly rap to neo-soul to reggae. Boogie's mixes can be heard regularly on weeknights and weekends on Z 107.9 FM, and his Mick Boogie Volume I-VI mix CDs are moving quickly through record stores all over the Midwest. The white-hot hip-hop DJ also holds it down at Spy Bar on Fridays and Touch Supper Club on Sundays. Known for his versatility, Boogie has opened for everyone from old-school legends De La Soul to platinum playa Jay-Z.

DJ Jugoe has been drawing attention from abroad through his work for the Nitty Gritty parties at Touch Supper Club. Jugoe has worked alongside DJs Misterbradleyp, Whatever, and On Point Productions to make Nitty Gritty one of the premier showcases for the down-tempo scene throughout the U.S. As a result, major players in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and even England have been singing its praises. Noted for his refined grooves, Jugoe often colors his sets with the finest jazz and soul.

DJ Sleepy C, a veteran of Cleveland's house scene, has been representing Cleveland at clubs and raves throughout the country for more than a decade. His highest priority lately has been the Mannequin Odd Dance label, a house platform he runs out of Cleveland to present singles and mix CDs to the rest of the world. From deep house to hardcore dance- floor work-ups, Sleepy C is a consistent crowd-pleaser.

DJ Still Life, Cleveland's most refined drum & bass selector, has been expanding his stylistic range, spinning broken-beat house and electro at Eve on Friday and Saturday nights. He's also readying his second mix CD, 40 Dead Flies, a showcase of the jungle tunes he plays at Spy Bar's Wednesday-night Drum & Bass Lounge, where he touches down once or twice a month. -- Steve Boughton



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