10 Bands to See At This Weekend's IngenuityFest

click to enlarge Dressy Bessy - Courtesy of IngenuityFest
Courtesy of IngenuityFest
Dressy Bessy
A multi-media art and music exposition that aims to showcase underground artists and bands, IngenuityFest takes over the Hamilton Collaborative space in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. James Carol, the local promoter who runs Cleveland Music City, has booked an eclectic mix of bands.

Here’s a guide to some of the acts worth catching. Check the festival’s website for a schedule and more information.

Automatic Weapons

Automatic Weapons made a splash last year in the local music scene without so much as an opening slot at the corner bar. The multi-instrumentalist duo — Vinny DiFranco and Michael Bashur — hail from Ohio Sky, which scorched Northeast Ohio with an ethereal blend of heavy riffs and soaring soundscapes for about a decade. The group’s first EP and much of the band’s latest release, last year’s Young Lovers/Dystopian Future, stem from lengthy sound experiments at a home studio in Gates Mills. Surrounded by guitars, cameras and a warm, wooden ambiance, the guys ran sounds through an old Hammond Auto-Vari analog drum machine. What came out on the other end were stunning, polyrhythmic backbones that formed the genesis of this new material. (Eric Sandy)

Cereal Banter

The artsy, Flaming Lips-like Cereal Banter formed a few years back, and the local group’s debut single, 2010's "Edible Confetti," a song that features squiggly guitar riffs and echoing vocals, established just how off-kilter the band could be. Recently, band leader Joseph Joseph teamed up with singer-bassist Nicholas Gunzburg, a local musician who was a fan of the band. They collaborated on the cassette-only Oatmeal Outburst and quickly recorded another album, Junk Jazz. You should expect the unexpected with this avant garde act. (Jeff Niesel)

The Dreemers

Pay no attention to this Akron act's misnomer of a name. This isn't some dreamy, hippie bullshit group; instead, the Dreemers are one of the most raucous and riotous bands around. As the group told Scene late last year, "We'll have a punkier song or a bluesier song and then throw some kind of riff at the end, and it will go into doo-wop or some other genre. We just jam a lot and when we do that we blend styles together." All of those styles can be heard on the group's debut album Beach Mode, which is by far one of the most fun locally released records of last year. The three-piece, together since 2015, could easily roll into schtick territory with its mix of vintage sounds and over-the-top personas, but it somehow manages to keep it fresh and in the now. (Laura Morrison)

Dressy Bessy

Kingsized, this Denver-based indie rock act’s most recent album, offers the perfect mix of Dressy Bessy traditionalism and successful experimentation and comes across as an excellent representation of the band. Although often branded as twee or bubblegum pop on account of an early association with the Kindercore record label, Dressy Bessy has matured to embrace rock ’n’ roll attitude. Not infrequently, singer-guitarist Tammy Ealom evokes the vocal gruffness of the Deal sisters or Kim Shattuck of the Muffs as she sings over fuzzed-out guitars. New tracks like “Pop Phenom,” “Kingsized” and “Make Mine Violet” will invite fans new and old to revisit the band’s previous discography, while “These Modern Guns” marks the band’s first adventure into hard rock riffage, and “Cup o’ Bang Bang” has it trying on post-punk for size. (Bethany Kaufman)


Herzog is a Cleveland rock band through and through. Since forming back in 2000, the group just continues to bring its super relatable brand of rock 'n' roll to venues all over town. Not that we're complaining. In fact, for those in need of a new Herzog record, it seems something is on the way. The group hasn't put out a new album since 2014’s Boys, but according to its Facebook page, a new full-length could be fully cooked by the end of the year. That means more of Tony Vorell's wise lyrics (yes, just like Elton John the band has a lyricist who never performs on stage) paired with Nick Tolar's melodies. The group's songs run the gamut between straight-up party music to more lyrical and insightful tunes. Their IngenuityFest performance is sure to pull out all this and more. (Morrison)

Illuminati Hotties

An L.A.-based indie-pop outfit fronted by singer Sarah Tudzin, Illuminati Hotties just released its debut album Kiss Yr Frenemies to wide acclaim. The lead single, “Cuff” features soft vocals and dreamy synthesizer riffs before distorted guitars kick in and Tudzin begins to let loose howling vocals. Think Mazzy Star meets Smashing Pumpkins. A director/animator studying at CalArts, Sam Lane did the animation on the tune’s trippy music video that NPR recently premiered. (Niesel)

Mourning [A] BLKstar

We’ve written about this band a lot, and with good reason: Mourning [A] BLKstar offers fresh surprises nearly every day. The group’s debut album, Blk Muzak, is a perfect entry point as James Longs, LaToya Kent and Kyle Kidd’s enveloping vocals wrap around RA Washington’s dynamic beats. They’ve been playing shows and festivals all over town for more than a two years now (they topped our 2017 Bands to Watch list), and each show is another surreal, enigmatic experience that treats listeners to a heady, groovy experience. (Sandy)


As one of IngenuityFest's headliners, the duo Oshun truly embodies what the event is all about. Combining the digital with the acoustic, in beats and layered harmonies, the duo's music acts as a connector between hip-hop's past and future. Meeting as students at NYU, D.C. area transplants Thandiwe and Niambi Sala found that making music together made getting through school all the more enjoyable — it didn't hurt when the local scene and mainstream music outlets started paying attention either. The group's debut album, bittersweet, Vol. 1, which dropped earlier this year, shows a culmination of all things spiritual, analytical and even political. Yes, their earlier single, "Not My President," should also bring the house down tonight. (Morrison)

Punch Drunk Tagalongs

Punch Drunk Tagalongs come from a long tradition of bands led by fierce female singers. Anchored by equally vulnerable and ferocious lead singer Alisha Stahnke, the band writes songs that run the gamut of emotional intensity. The band tours extensively throughout Ohio and surrounding regions, continuing to develop an easy chemistry. On “Hazy,” a tune from their debut album, pulsing guitar work glides along and spikes, matching Stahnke's bursts of frenetic energy. Inspired by the grunge and riot grrrl movements, Punch Drunk Tagalong's live shows allow their frenzied instrumentals to come alive. (Michael Wu)

Time Cat

Named after a children’s book, the Akron-based indie rock group Time Cat has recently gathered some momentum. The online music magazine Noisey published a profile of the group last year, and the band just recorded a live album at the new Akron Recording Company (ARC) recording studio. Locals Ben Patrick of the Dreemers and Nate Butcher of See Creatures founded the studio, which offers both analog and digital recording. The band’s music features a mix of psychedelia and stoner rock as songs such as the Zeppelin-inspired “Into the Ocean” start slow before building a momentous wall of sound. (Niesel)
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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