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Still Blazing 

The Balls of Fire turn 25.

GE Smith, unleashing the blues July 21 at the Winchester. - WALTER  NOVAK
  • Walter Novak
  • GE Smith, unleashing the blues July 21 at the Winchester.
Cleveland cult band Balls of Fire celebrates its 25th anniversary Saturday, August 5, at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Road). With more ex-members than original songs, the group has always been a reliable draw.

"Our role in Cleveland rock history is to be around when you're sick of lame local acts forever being touted as the next big thing until they disappear," says founder, guitarist, and self-described taskmaster Carl Czaga. "Then you discover/remember us clowns are still around, so you can go see us and feel good about unpretentious, basic rock and roll again."

The Balls of Fire formed in 1981, when the Stray Cats and Dave Edmunds were lighting up the charts. Playing the old Pirate's Cove and the Phantasy in its heyday, various incarnations of the group have included Lucky Pierre drummer Dave Zima, Baloney Heads drummer Wally Gunn, and Choir guitarist Randy Klawon on bass. Current bassist George (ex-Ice Cubes) and keyboard-sax player Rod Mapes (ex-Insanity) have been with the band since 1993.

Lineups have varied from a trio to a six-piece with two backup singers, and well over 20 players have stayed long enough to be considered tenured members. In recent years, they've popped up in places like Casey's, a West Side sports bar, relying on obscure covers like "Stepping Out," by Paul Revere and the Raiders. For the anniversary show, a parade of alums will join the band for old favorites.

The band has never recorded -- most of its original ideas, Czaga says, aren't worth the time.

"If something we write isn't up to par with the other material we do, there's no point in performing it," he says. "We're our version of what a bar band should sound like."

· Roué has recorded four songs for Totally Fuckin Totally, a new 10-inch vinyl-only EP. Singer-guitarist Justin Coulter says it's somewhat of a thematic sequel to the band's debut EP, 2003's Fuckin for the Future, but the new batch of emotive indie rock hits harder. "It makes that [old] stuff look like the Smiths," says Coulter. "This is way more intense. We've undergone a lot of evolution since Steve [Mehlman of Pere Ubu/reunited Rocket From the Tombs] became our drummer." Set for late summer, the disc will be self-released and distributed through Cleveland's Exit Stencil. Roué will play the Grog Shop side stage Thursday at Blossom's Kuyahoga festival, just before the set by Sonic Youth.

· Akron's Hammer Damage will play two reunion shows at the Lime Spider (207 S. Main St., Akron) Friday, July 28, and Saturday, July 29. Two new releases will be available: The Official Bootleg CD features 25 unreleased studio tracks recorded in 1979 and '80. Official Bootleg DVD presents a four-camera shoot of last year's reunion shows, along with older clips, pictures, and fliers.

· Cleveland honky-tonk beer-swillers the Capgun Cowboys will reunite for a show Saturday, June 29, at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road), when singer-guitarists Greg Yanito and Phil Verhoef briefly return to town.

· After recent production and mixing duties with Ferret Music metalcore crews Walls of Jericho and Misery Signals, Cleveland producer Ben Schigel (Chimaira, Switched) plans to renew a longtime association with Drowning Pool when the band begins preproduction on its new record.

· After canceling its Cleveland farewell shows, Whitechapel will play a short final (for now) set at Akron's Lime Spider Sunday, July 30.

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