Ray Williams, producer and co-host of Sound Central, a local music showcase that airs four times a week on Adelphia cable, thinks Cleveland has what it takes to create a national buzz. "We have an abundance of talent," he says. "Bands are itching to be recognized. We're just as hungry as the people in New York, California, and Chicago."
Which is why Williams and a camera crew hit the clubs monthly, in search of the city's most ravenous pop, rock, metal, reggae, punk, country, and hip-hop groups. The 30-minute program, which airs new episodes at the beginning of each month (they are then repeated more than a dozen times), features two bands per show, each performing a pair of songs, as well as interview segments.
Prior to the show's debut last July, the idea of a local music TV show floated in Williams's mind for a year. "I wanted to get the underground feel of the city," he says. "Cleveland is the so-called rock capital of the world, yet there wasn't a show like this [presenting] the talent. A show like this should have been in effect."
To be fair, other shows have tried . . . and failed. Williams doesn't see the same fate for Sound Central. "We get paid to do this," he says. "We're not some public-access show with a bishop holding a camcorder, recording some preacher." (Sound Central, technically, is local programming, which means Adelphia ponies up the funds for the program.)
What makes the show work is its restless genre-jumping. "People get bored," Williams explains. "I want this to be as broad as possible. Everybody's not into the same music. We want everybody to enjoy this city. There's a wide variety of sounds here. Why not make the show about that?"
So far, punk heroes the Sign-Offs, honky-tonkers the Dirty Bottom Boys, alt-rockers Uptown Sinclair, hip-hoppers Chop Shop Renegades, and hard rockers Bazooka Proof have all been featured in performance from the Beachland, Grog Shop, and other local clubs. "We want to expose people to the venues, as much as to the bands," Williams says.
The next filming will be at the Beachland on April 4, with Afro-Cuban rockers Michael Rotman Trio and reggae combo Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band. And Williams, a hip-hop fan, can't wait, because working on Sound Central has turned him on to other types of music. "One of my favorite shows was Bazooka Proof," he says. "It was like walking into an underground cult. Guys were onstage yelling and screaming, and I was enthralled with the shit. It was the first time I saw a mosh pit."
For now, Williams wants to keep it local. He says "outsiders" have contacted him, but "this is about Cleveland. I don't care about bands that come from down South or the East Coast. What do they have to do with Cleveland? This gives the people of Cleveland something to call their own.
"We have fun doing this," he says. "But without the local talent, we wouldn't have the show."