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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cleveland Rock City

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM


To drum up some regional support for the upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, Positively Cleveland hosted what it called a “fam tour” (fam as in familiarization) with area journalists last week. The day started with the Rock Hall press conference about the inductions that included handing out proclamations to Parliament/Funkadelic’s Bootsy Collins and the O’Jays’ Walter Williams, both of whom are already inducted.

From the Rock Hall, a bus took the writers to the Beachland Ballroom, where co-owner Cindy Barber talked about how she and partner Mark Leddy (who quietly manned a pair of turntables and spun old-school soul singles) had transformed the Croatian dance hall into the area’s most happening music joint. Their hope, she said, was that the entire Collinwood neighborhood would become a haven for artsy types.

As if to prove her point, she took everyone on a tour of neighboring shops, including indie record store Music Saves, toy and T-shirt shop Shoparooni and the newly opened vintage vinyl store Blue Arrow. The group also visited Exit Stencil, the record label and recording studio manned by Ryan Weitzel.

From there, local musician and scholar Lawrence Daniel Caswell took over, leading the group out to Zombie Proof Studios, the East St. Clair loft space where his band, This Moment in Black History, has recorded at dirt-cheap rates. Then, as if to provide contrast, Caswell led everyone next door to the more refined Ante Up Audio, where one of its well-dressed owners noted that millions of dollars had gone into the state-of-the-art gear there which has attracted national acts such as Dave Matthews and Kelly Clarkson. Pulled from a Chicago studio where Loverboy and Def Leppard once laid down tracks, the mixing board alone is worth a small fortune.

The tour-takers also met Vincent Slusarz, who plans to open Gotta Groove Records around the vinyl-pressing equipment he bought from a plant in New Jersey. Gotta Groove will be one of only 11 vinyl pressing plants in the country. After a stop at House of Blues (including a visit to the VIP-only Foundation Room), the group went to Tremont’s Prosperity Social Club, where locals Martini Five-O played a mix of covers and lounge originals.

Afterward, the group split, with half going back to the Beachland to check out singer-songwriter Glenn Tilbrook and the other half heading to the West Side’s Brothers Lounge to see local rockabilly acts Lords of the Highway and Madison Crawl. While tour guide isn’t a usual gig for Caswell, he's well-suited to the task. Here’s hoping it’s not the last time he gets to drop some science about the city’s rock ’n’ roll history. —Jeff Niesel

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