For 17 years the Savannah Bar & Grille was the premier blues spot on the West Side. Everyone from Austin "Walkin' Cane" to Colin Dussault called the Westlake club home.
But soon after Doug Lufkin took the reins from longtime owner Jim DePaul in April, fans of the genre suddenly had a real reason to sing the blues: Their favorite 12-bar progression was cut from the musical menu.
The change is part of Lufkin's plan to court a younger crowd to the Savannah, where a steady diet of blues also meant an ever more mature clientele. Some weekends, the place could have been confused for a bingo parlor. Not so anymore: These days, popular '80s cover bands like the Breakfast Club are Friday and Saturday staples — and the crowds are responding.
"My intention was to gut the place and create something brand new out of it," says Lufkin, a 41-year-old entrepreneur with more than a passing resemblance to Vin Diesel. "I tried to move some of that oldness out."
In addition to repainting and removing the dusty old pictures that cluttered the walls for years, he has overhauled the menu to capitalize on his background as a chef. But the biggest difference is the music you'll hear.
This weekend's lineup features the Bipolar Bears (Thursday) and Wayne's World (Friday), both cover bands specializing in the 1980s. On less-busy weeknights, oldies groups like the GeezeCats will hold down the stage.
Of course, there are still kinks to work out. A recent open jam fell flat, while a heavy-metal night was a surprising success. Lufkin plans to add more taps, which will double the draft beer selection to a dozen. There's also a new late-night menu — the better to refuel after a furious dance-floor workout to "Material Girl."
"We're perpetually evolving," he says. "We're no longer Cougar Central."
SMOOTH GROOVES: It's not often that "music" and "healthy lifestyle" find space in the same sentence, unless you're saying something like It's too bad Amy Winehouse didn't live a healthy lifestyle, 'cause she sure could have made some more awesome music. This weekend's Multi Music Festival: Legends of Jazz and Health Fair promises both. Jonathan Butler, Spyro Gyra, Conya Doss, and Hubb's Groove will bring the noise to the Palace Theatre on Saturday.
And the healthy part? Before the show and between sets, you can get screened for diabetes and listen to experts talk about staying fit and alive. We'll let the pros decide whether smooth jazz is really the best thing for your blood pressure. It all starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $45. Visit playhousesquare.org for more info.
GOING HARDCORE: In the mood
for something a little more ass-shredding on Saturday? Head on over to Peabody's for Hardcore Lives. The big news here is the reunion of two Cleveland hardcore bands: straight-edge punks One Life Crew and Ascension with Matt DeVries, who now plays guitar in Chimaira. Jim LaMarca, who formerly played bass in Chimaira, will also be there with his new band, Killing It. Wisdom in Chains, Heavyweight, and Foose are also on the bill, as is a tribute to Cleveland hardcore that should leave your ears seriously pummeled.
caption: probably running peter bjorn and john concert pic
If you're in the mood for something a little more brutal and ass-shredding on Saturday, head on over to Peabody's for Hardcore Lives. The big news here are the reunion shows featuring two Cleveland hardcore bands: straight-edge punks One Life and Ascension with Matt DeVries, who now plays guitar in Chimaira. Jim LaMarca, who used to play bass in Chimaira, will also be there with his new band Killing It. Wisdom in Chains, Heavyweight, and Foose are also on the bill, as is a tribute to Cleveland hardcore that should leave your ears seriously pummeled by the end of the night.
caption: probably running peter bjorn and john concert pic
PHLEX APPEAL: Rephlex Records, the electronic-music label started by genre giant Aphex Twin in 1991, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a U.K. tour. The show is also hitting a couple of U.S. dates, with a stop at the B Side Liquor Lounge on Monday. Apparently, some of the artists played the Grog Shop back in 2002 (back when people were still calling the music the Next Big Thing) and dug it, so tour organizers contacted local promoters about playing here again. (The B Side is located below the Grog.) Dave Monolith, Aleksi Perala, Soundmurderer, and Jodey Kendrick (among others) are scheduled to perform. It's a rare chance to see some of the world's best electronic artists on one small stage — and a perfect cap to your Labor Day weekend.
BURIED TREASURE: Did you catch the movie Hanna's Gold last year? Didn't think so, since it never played theatrically in the States. No big loss, but you did miss "Just Because You're Gone" by the Kent band Color in December. The movie just came out on DVD, so you can now hear their blast of hooky pop-punk, during a party scene early on. Hanna's Gold is about a pair of Beverly Hills sisters who head to the mountains in search of buried treasure. And speaking of Beverly Hills, Luke Perry is probably the only name you'll recognize in the movie. Meanwhile, Color in December are at work on an album that should be out by the end of the year.
WIDE AWAKE: Youngstown indie rockers Asleep just wrapped recording on their new album with legendary noise architect and all-around pain in the ass Steve Albini. Unpleasant Companion, which will be released next month, was recorded at Albini's Electrical Audio studio in Chicago (it's being mastered in Chicago too, but will be pressed in Cleveland). Since Albini has always had a problem with the "producer" label, he's given an "engineer" credit on the album, which means he basically pushed the "record" button as the band started playing. The music bears Albini's hallmarks of thick, distorted guitar and a full, live sound, best heard on the Pixies' Surfer Rosa and Nirvana's In Utero. It sounds right at home here.
Singer-songwriter Zach's new album Luminosity is all about finding light within the darkness. He recorded it to help get through the long, gloomy winter we had here. On Friday he releases the record at the Gothic Building in downtown Akron. Despite the grim name of the place, Zach promises a festive affair, which will convert the bottom floor of the building into a "Luminosity Experience." Fans are encouraged to dress in bright clothes and bring glow sticks and other shiny things to light up the show. Zach will be doing his part by bringing his band the Bright Lights. So if you're into wearing black everything and being all depressed and shit, you may want to find something else to do that night.
caption: Hip-hop, indie rock, hipster poses ... The KickDrums do it all.