"The party of the year in Cleveland"

The George Strait Country Music Festival featuring George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Lace, Lee Ann Womack, Jerry Kilgore, Mark Chesnutt, Martina McBride, Clay Davidson, Asleep at the Wheel, and Tim McGraw. 1 p.m., Saturday, May 20, Cleveland Browns Stadium, $39.50-$69.50, 216-241-5555 and 330-945-9400.1 p.m., Saturday, May 20, Cleveland Browns Stadium, $39.50-$69.50, 216-241-5555 and 330-945-9400.
Chep Trick at the Rock Hall: Tommy's all right, Andy's - all right- They just seem a little strange - Walter  Novak
Chep Trick at the Rock Hall: Tommy's all right, Andy's all right- They just seem a little strange
Hyped as "the party of the year in Cleveland," the kickoff for the Rock Style exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on May 12 couldn't live up to its billing, despite appearances by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and his entourage (brother Andy and supermodel Maggie Rizer). Patrons were greeted by a veritable army of valets and a lengthy red carpet that stretched from the museum's doors to the curb, but the event was offset by a lack of energy, due in part to the fact that the mismatched bands played in an order that wasn't conducive to creating an enduring party atmosphere. Cheap Trick, the most raucous of the three acts on the bill, opened the affair with a typically solid set. The band, which defined power pop in the '70s and has since coasted on its laurels, was in fine form as guitarist Rick Nielsen flicked his guitar picks into the audience and brought out a five-necked guitar (and actually played each neck) for "Surrender." By not headlining, though, Cheap Trick's enthusiasm was lost on the crowd, most of which was still trickling in by the time the band cranked up its amps shortly before 8 p.m.

The next performer, Michael Fredo (the nephew of Hilfiger), sang to the accompaniment of a tape, on which the majority of the vocals and music to his set were recorded. His good looks and energy (he jumped into the crowd at one point) couldn't make up for the fact that his songs were cheesy ballads that had much in common with boy bands like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. While the Neville Brothers turned in a solid set, the New Orleans-based group's mixture of zydeco and soul (anchored by Aaron Neville's potent falsetto) would have served better as a warm-up act for Cheap Trick. Questionable decisions regarding the musical entertainment notwithstanding, the party, billed as a benefit with tickets in the $200-$500 range, just wasn't as festive as the one that kicked off the Roots, Rhymes, and Rage hip-hop exhibit last fall. Not that we would return our bag of swag, which included a Hilfiger vest and a Rock Hall-logo-emblazoned CD case.

While the musical talent slated to appear at the 9th Annual Tops Great American Rib Cook-Off and Music Festival (May 25-29 at the Burke Lakefront Airport) includes names you'll recognize -- has-been national acts such as Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Weird Al Yankovic, Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band (featuring local Eric Carmen), K.C. & the Sunshine Band, and Todd Rundgren -- its rival, the Great Lakes Mall National Rib Cook-Off (May 18-21 at the Great Lakes Mall Festival Park) has picked some of the best local acts to provide entertainment on its stages.

"There's nothing wrong with Ringo Starr, but that's a concert," Great Lakes Cook-Off organizer/rib aficionado Gary Jacob says. "We're trying to merge the food and the music into a big party. I hope that people who like to do that remember the way it used to be, back in the early '80s, when these festivals started and there was more of a blending of the food and the music."

The locals scheduled to perform include Colin Dussault's Blues Project, Anne E. DeChant, the Casuals, Dreamstreet, Fayrewether, Beau Coup, Frankie Starr, After 5, Robert Ocasio's Latin Jazz Project, Qwasi Qwa (featuring the Raspberries' Wally Bryson, the father of Qwasi Qwa singer-guitarist Jesse Bryson), Stagepass, Hillbilly Idol, Sugar Magnolia, and the Dukes of Wail. For more information on the Great Lakes Mall National Rib Cook-Off, call 216-732-3230. For more information on the Tops Great American Rib Cook-Off and Music Festival, call 216-247-4FUN.

Director and former Cleveland Heights resident Michael Deet will be in town from Los Angeles on May 19 to film a scene for Incubus, a film about a demon who has sex with his victims. He'll be shooting footage for the movie at the local nightclub Wish, and it'll cost you $20 to get in for the night. The club is being selective about who it allows in, so the more outlandish you look, the better your chances. In addition, Wish promoter Jessica George will be compiling a soundtrack for the film and is soliciting material from local bands. "It's a funky, edgy movie," George says, adding that she's accepting music from all different genres. You can drop your music off in person during regular business hours (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or mail it to George's attention at Wish, 621 Johnson Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113.

Use Once and Destroy, the aptly titled new album by the local punk outfit Bluto's Revenge, features 20 minutes of video which you can play on your computer. Included is random video footage in which they ignite an Oscar the Grouch-like muppet, ride a bike on skis down a snowy slope, and interview fans standing on the street outside of the Euclid Tavern. Produced by Bill Korecky at his Mars Studio, the album has a beefy, Bad Religion-like sound. Bluto's Revenge celebrates the release of the new record with a 10 p.m. show on May 20 at the Blind Lemon. Tickets are $5, and the Unknown and Eternal Struggle will open. For more information, call the club at 216-521-8878.

About The Author

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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