"A lot of the equipment at Pat's is pretty busted up," says promoter Steve Barrett. His words reinforce the freewheeling punk rep that the workingman's joint has earned over the past two decades. "It takes a beating every night there's a show."
This was obvious back when space-rockers Indian Jewelry blew through town just before Christmas. The band's massive low-end assault -- think Geto Boys beating the shit out of Spacemen 3 -- pummeled Pat's poor little PA system, which takes similar beatings throughout the week. (Hell, words cannot even begin to explain the piercing shrieks and ungodly squalls that Akron-to-Cleveland noise-freaks Tusco Terror have fed through that overtaxed system.)
But unlike previous fund-raisers, Barrett's two-day, 11-band throwdown this weekend takes on a greater sense of urgency than just another mere equipment fix. Hanych, 68, suffered a stroke in mid-January, and she was holed up at Metro hospital as Pat's was shut down, its slate of upcoming shows scrapped.
Of course, it came as no surprise to Barrett that Hanych was back on her feet in no time. "She is a trooper," he says. "When she had her stroke, just over a month later, she was going to reopen the place." Then the water pipes burst, but that was merely a bump in the road.
Just three months removed from her stroke, Hanych is running the club again while undergoing intensive speech therapy. That's why Barrett is speaking today from the confines of Edison's Pub in the Flats, instead of down the hill at Pat's, nursing a Straub in the shadows of a smelly oil refinery. Hanych's recovery schedule prevents her from keeping the bar open every day.
Hanych also has no time for an interview, but that's just as well. It's easy losing oneself in the deep admiration of avant-weirdos like Barrett and Jim Donadio, bassist for psych-rock bruisers the Flat Can Co., who will co-headline the Pat's benefit this Friday and Saturday. The odd little lady started washing dishes at Pat's at age 12, back when the place bore the name Annie's Lunch, in honor of her mother. Sure, Hanych lets any old outfit from Northeast Ohio overrun the club with freaky sounds. (Hanych's only ground rules, says, Barrett: Don't piss on the floor, get naked, destroy property, or set off fireworks.) And yes, ever since the '80s, some true underground legends from around the country have played the place, from sax giant Paul Flaherty to the now-mainstream White Stripes. But the real reason Hanych is adored by so many has little to do with the opportunities she affords and far more to do with the fact that she's just plain strange -- strange in much the same way that outsider musicians who make fucked-up sounds are strange. When asked if Hanych ever banned a band, all Barrett can come up with is C-Town thrash band Midnight, whose frontman once exited the bathroom carrying a flaming cross. Now that's patience.
"We don't even use the PA, but it doesn't matter -- we'll play the benefit," Donadio says with a laugh. "I don't know why, but she loves us. Whenever we play, she wears our shirt. We just played, and she made food for us, because she was so happy to have us play. It was a celebration."
Now that's a spectacle to behold: You'd more likely expect to see Hanych wearing a "World's Greatest Grandmother" tee, yet the Flat Can Co. specializes in totally improvised, industrial-tainted acid rock -- the kind that makes Tool sound like Papa Roach.
But it's Barrett, with just a few simple words, who expresses perfectly the widespread affection for Hanych. "I just wanted to surprise her with something nice, because she's been really cool to me."
Oh, and by the way -- Barrett digs power electronics and experimental noise.