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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Concert Review: Avett Brothers at House of Blues

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Avett Brothers: We and love and them
  • Avett Brothers: We and love and them

When the Avett Brothers walked onstage at a sold-out House of Blues last night, they looked like a band that earned the honor. After spending the past five years nonstop touring with their brand of low-key alt-country and high-speed bluegrass, the North Carolina group (banjo player Scott Avett, guitarist Seth Avett, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon) hit the jackpot last year with its major-label debut, I and Love and You.

The album’s songs are stronger, bolder and sturdier than anything they recorded before (thanks to Rick Rubin’s rock-hard production), and they sounded even more solid onstage when rubbing against some of the Avetts’ older compositions (which aren’t too shabby either).

Opening with “Salina” (from 2007’s Emotionalism), the band’s 90-minute set split the difference between the group’s acoustic songs (pretty much everything before I and Love and You) and the new record’s more rock-oriented cuts (where a drummer joined them onstage). Playing the country/Everyman purists (Scott sported both a cowboy hat on his head and a bandana in his pocket), they even covered Roger Miller’s “Where Have All the Average People Gone” early in their set.

But it’s the dynamic news songs — which incorporate piano and percussion into the banjo-acoustic-guitar-cello-standup-bass setup — that showed off the group’s grown-up sound. The Avetts played a half-dozen songs from I and Love and You, including highlights “The Perfect Space,” “Laundry Room” and “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.”

Older favorites like “Please Pardon Yourself” and “Murder in the City” prompted audience singalongs, which the group clearly appreciated. (Too bad the chatty fratboys in the crowd couldn’t have given openers the Low Anthem the same respect; the band’s hushed sound was barely audible over the din.)

A few years ago, a little Avett Brothers went a long way. They are great musicians, put on a lively show, and have their hearts and intentions in the right place. But the banjo-fueled acoustic numbers come dangerously close to novelty after 30 minutes. With I and Love and You — which sounded just as spacious and persuasive onstage last night — they’ve set themselves up for a long and lovely career. —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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Friday, February 26, 2010

What to Do Tonight: The Wonder Years

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 8:23 AM

Philadelphia brings a few things to mind: cheese steak, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin and, maybe most importantly, Rocky Balboa. The image of Sylvester Stallone climbing the steps of Philadelphia’s art museum, while “Gonna Fly Now” blares in the background, will always be linked to the City of Brotherly Love. What does the Italian Stallion have to do with Philly pop-punkers the Wonder Years? Their second album, The Upsides, is the band’s attempt to fight youthful lethargy and existentialism. The five-member Wonder Years are underdogs battling the urge to revert to pop-punk tropes like heartbreak, alienation and depression. Singer Dan Campbell continually declares that he isn’t all mopey, while his bandmates pound out intricate, breakdown-packed songs that sound ready to explode at any moment. It’s a melodic, smile-laden take on pop-punk that can brighten up even a gloomy Cleveland winter. The Wonder Years play the Pirate’s Cove (2045 East 21st St., 216.776.9999, peabodys.com), with Therefore I Am and Man Overboard opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. — Matt Whelihan

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What to Do Tonight: Wussy

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 7:17 AM

The musical partnership between Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker has grown stronger over the three terrific albums their band Wussy has released. Their most recent, an eponymously titled record that came out last year, stands as their most complete album. It’s the apex of Cleaver and Walker’s individual formidable songwriting talents, which have been culled into a singular, irrefutable energy. Almost four years into things, Walker and Cleaver have solidified a position that reveals their status as another pair of exceptional guy/girl, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife songwriters and performers that seems to constantly deal in the margins of its relationship. Think Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and Richard and Linda Thompson. Yet Walker and Cleaver don’t necessarily see it that way. If Wussy were an autobiographical record, God bless the poor souls whose story it is. Things are amiss in these songs. There’s guilt. There’s suspicion. Trust is quickly dissolving and dissipating. And then, in their starkest moments, there’s resignation. The songs are so earnest, so powerfully written and so well-executed that they can’t possibly exist outside of the reality of Cleaver’s and Walker’s romantic relationship. They simply cut too deep and too close to the bone. There’s too much honesty in the record to not be the literal diary of the couple’s connection. Wussy play the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.comKurt Hernon

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Michael Stanley Adds Co-Chairman to Résumé

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Stanley, striking up a pose before striking up the band
  • Stanley, striking up a pose before striking up the band

You know all those giant guitars that double as art that you see around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Sure you do. It's hard to miss the freakin' things.

A similar group to the one behind those is launching a new set of artsy guitars — but these are mortal size and playable.

Michael Stanley — radio host and frontman for the massively popular Michael Stanley Band back in the day — has just been named celebrity co-chairman of the group that spearheads the guitars.

Cleveland Rocks! (yes, that's the organization's name) has tapped Stanley to help raise funds for the project. He'll also "provide creative input."

A bunch of new artists were just chosen to put their spin on the guitars, which will showcase at the Rock Hall before being auctioned off in June.

The funds will benefit local non-profits the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, the Music Settlement and the Rock Hall. We assume Stanley will be at the "gala auction event." Yippee.

You can find more info about the guitars and the project here. —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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Eric Robertson Tribute Shows This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Robertson
  • Robertson

Until his death from cancer in December 2007 at the age of 56, singer-songwriter Eric Robertson was a longtime fixture in the Mentor music scene, best known for his long-running band the Secret.

The Secret's first lineup, from 1980-1985, included former Raspberries Wally Bryson on guitar and Dave Smalley on bass, and attempted, in their poppy, British-invasion-dominated repertoire, to recreate some of the magic of the Mentor rock scene of the ’60s that Bryson and Smalley were part of.

Later lineups featured many of Robertson’s own tunes. Early last year, some of Robertson’s friends got together for a tribute and benefit show at the Beachland.

This weekend, they’re doing it again, gathering a batch of musicians who knew or admired Robertson for a two-night tribute at the Beachland.

On Saturday, the lineup includes the Secret Friends, John Salamon, the Alan Greene Band, Morticia’s Chair, Jimmy Black & Friends, Donny Young and a veteran of the ’60s rock scene, Denny Carlton.

Sunday’s show features Artie Peeler Production, Fire Zuave, the Brickhouse Blues Band, Raygus, Euphoria and Dickens’ Store.

Both shows start at 7:30; admission is $12 per night or $20 for both nights. —Anastasia Pantsios

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Carlos Jones Spreads Java Vibe

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Good caffeine vibrations
  • Good caffeine vibrations

Carlos Jones has long been spreading positive vibrations around the greater Cleveland area and beyond — first during his 14-year stint with First Light (who broke up in 1998), and currently with his own P.L.U.S. Band.

Now, in addition to his sunny, feel-good reggae music, Jones will be offering fans Carlos Jones Positive Vibrations Gourmet Coffee. It’s currently on sale at his gigs and will soon be available to schools and nonprofits to use as a fundraiser. He’s following in the footsteps of late local Latin jazz icon Roberto Ocasio, who developed his own salsa and folkie Alex Bevan who has a line of pickles.

“This was really Larry’s brainchild,” says Jones, referring to Larry Koval of Little Fish Records, which distributes Jones’ music. “He made all the connections and put it together. I definitely can get behind it. I appreciate a good cup of coffee.”

Koval worked with Berardi’s Coffee in North Royalton to come up with a distinctive blend.

Personally, Jones says, “I like dark roasts. I really like those rich flavorful coffees. I love my first cup in the morning, and usually one is enough. Sometimes in the afternoon if I feel I like I’m dragging, I’ll have a second cup. But I love that first wake-up jolt. There’s something pleasurable about it.”

Meanwhile, Jones is making plans for his trip to Jamaica with Columbus’ Ekoostik Hookah April 17-24 for jamrock 2010, a tour that gives fans an opportunity to hear and hang out with the two Ohio acts in a variety of informal situations in the beautiful setting of Negril.

Although Jones will be going without his band, he says, “They’re going to get some Jamaican guys to sit in with me, and we’ll do some stuff on the fly.” —Anastasia Pantsios

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