Surfin' Cleveland 

A look at the world's best local music sites.

Ever since the Internet opened the floodgates for quick, widespread dispersal of music and news, it's been all too easy to drown in the tidal wave of dodgy downloads and crappy band sites that immediately followed. In an attempt to toss a life preserver to 'Net-surfing local music fans, Soundbites has braved these rough waters to share some of the Cleveland music scene's best sites.

Since the Internet thrives on a kind of unchecked, anything-goes anarchy, it only makes sense that a genre posited on chaos would be particularly well-suited to the web. Perhaps that's why the punk site Clepunk.com is among the finest of the pages that caters to local music. Maintained by omnipresent Cleveland punk Scott "Cheese" Borger, the site is among the most comprehensive of its class, providing concert listings, club info, and a hilarious message board where old punkers debate Evan Dando's sexual orientation, among other things. Clepunk.com offers downloads from more than two dozen bands, ranging from old-school vets like the New Salem Witch Hunters to the warped weirdos of St. Jayne. But even better is the site's mammoth band index, an exhaustive genealogy of the Cleveland punk scene. More than 150 bands are chronicled, each with a link that lists group members and what they're up to. Even cats with a hiccup of a career, like the White Slaves of Sammy Davis Jr. and the Baloney Heads, are listed. If anything, there's almost too much information. Did anybody really need to know that Li'l Rikki, rhythm guitarist for Sleazy Jesus & the Splatter Pigs, supposedly now runs a donkey burlesque on Lorain Avenue?

Just as thorough is Esquirerecords.com's gargantuan site. Aimed at providing the most all-encompassing coverage of the Cleveland music scene, the site documents the town's musical heritage with impressive detail. Among the highlights is the club forum section, where visitors can chat with former patrons of such seminal Cleveland rock spots as Leo's Casino and the Chagrin Armory. Check out the Agora board to read about club owner Henry LoConti making breakfast for the Who after the band's long night on the town, or perhaps reacquaint yourself with that foxy mama you met at a Todd Rundgren show years ago. It's a rock and roll class reunion of sorts. There's also extensive downloads available, painstaking biographies of over 40 artists ranging from Ernie Krivda to the James Gang, a special section commemorating Cleveland's storied Upbeat show, and lots of rock trivia.

Speaking of trivia, how do you know when you've logged onto a heavy website? When you see blood dripping beneath the site banner and links to bands with names like Acid Porno. That's precisely what you get at Cleveland-metal.com, a site long on hair and short on downloads, with only about a half-dozen bands contributing MP3s. Still, Cleveland-metal.com more than makes up for the deficiency with an encyclopedic bio and link section that features every regional metal band imaginable, from doomy stoners Abdullah to hair-metal casualty Neil Zaza.

Cleveland-metal.com's scope is as limited as the employment opportunities for dudes with their names tattooed across their knuckles, but the same can't be said of Clevelandartists.net. Easily the most well-rounded local music site, Clevelandartists.net combines over a hundred links and artist descriptions of acts from every genre, with helpful contact info for local publishing firms, distributors, and promotions companies. Not strictly a music site, the page also boasts a bevy of artist and filmmaker profiles, gallery listings, and radio schedules, making it the most useful of any local arts and entertainment site.

Also chock full o' practical info is Northcoastcountryonline.com. In addition to all the dirt on the leading local and national country artists, there's a column by a guy named Pete Peterson on how to kill stuff. Pete's full of interesting facts. Did you know 99,599 Ohio deer lost their lives this past hunting season? (A moment of silence, please.) And Pete's tips on "country living" are complemented by an instructional line-dancing column. The site has the music covered, too, offering a detailed list of regional country artists, complete with contact info and links, as well as the most extensive country concert listings that you're likely to find anywhere. It's all presented in a clear, easy-to-navigate format that should make your online experience go swimmingly.

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