Starting Off With a Bang

Local hip-hop rockers release their debut album

The debut album by the hip-hop rock band Big Bang Theory ( just hit the streets. The group — which includes former Prhymal Rage frontman Jacob "Ref" Rockwell — names Flobots, Rage Against the Machine, and Atmosphere as influences. Rockwell is no Zack de la Rocha, but he comes damn close to capturing the RATM singer's energy on songs like "Lose Yourself" and "Adversity."

Former K.O.B.K. and GMN member G-Blakk ( just released his first solo album, Blakk Planet. The Akron rapper alternates between rhyming and singing on "Follow Me" and "Fool's Gold," which give off a Native Tongues-inspired vibe.

Chicago-based Smog Veil Records ( is reissuing The New Hope

, a 1983 compilation featuring Cleveland hardcore bands the Guns, the Dark, Offbeats, Agitated, Positive Violence, Starvation Army, PPG, Outerwear, and Zero Defex. The album will include extra tracks and new liner notes penned by Starvation Army's Tom Miller and the Dark's Tom Dark. The limited-edition vinyl is slated for an October 15 release. Smog Veil plans to print only 500 copies.

Cleveland rapper Nelson "Neo" Ramirez just released his debut album, Progression. Ramirez establishes himself as a man with a message on songs about struggling to get by ("Waiting for the Time") and ballads about making Cleveland a better place ("Letter to the City"). The socially conscious Progression recalls classic albums by Ice Cube and 2Pac. As Neo raps on one cut: "I came in the game to give it a new face."

Just back from last month's experimental FIMU 2010 Festival in Belfort, France, Akron avant-jazz group Red Side Visible ( has a new album, Enter Entropy. Inspired by Mr. Bungle's madcap art rock and Meshuggah's stirring progressive metal (with several stops in between), the band is far heavier than saxophonist Paul Stranahan's other projects. Stranahan — who used to play in the more straightforward jazz outfit Broadview Collective — expands his musical horizons on Red Side Visible's debut.

The tragic death of musical director Clifton Beasley forced the Prayer Warriors ( to cancel their appearance at the annual Midwest Reggae Fest last month. After a short hiatus, the band is moving on. "We have a mission to share our special blend of inspirational groove with the world, and we have decided to stay the course," says the band's marketing manager, Donna Kelso Nelson. The Prayer Warriors played the Ward 1 Community Expo a couple weeks ago, marking their first live performance since Beasley's death. Expect more shows from the terrific gospel group soon.

Sparx City Hop ( is mostly a culinary and arts event, but it also features performances by several local bands, including Lost State of Franklin, Drumplay, the Up Ensemble, and Cats on Holiday. The event — a celebration of Cleveland's diverse neighborhoods — takes place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday downtown and in the Warehouse District, Tremont, and Ohio City. Lolly the Trolley will shuttle folks for free from one neighborhood to the next.

We normally don't condone mixing religion and rock, but Saturday's Rock of Faith concert — happening from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Shaker Heights' First Baptist Church ( — sounds like a whole lotta fun. Sixteen young singers team up with a seven-piece band to play spiritual renditions of songs written by Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Chesney, and Eric Clapton. The event commemorates the ninth anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy. There's also a barbecue dinner and raffle. Tickets are $25; proceeds benefit the church.

The 29th annual Studio-A-Rama returns to the courtyard outside Case Western Reserve University's Mather Memorial Building at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Austin-based psych-rockers Black Angels (who have a new album, Phosphene Dream) headline the free show. Local bands Fawn, Afternoon Naps, Sun God, Self Destruct Button, Prisoners, Nick Riff's Freak Element, Teenage Grandpa, Ethiopians, and Sloth will also play. CWRU's radio station 91.1 WRUW ( presents the summer favorite.

Named after the late Chuck Freidhof — father and manager of local singer-songwriter Zach — the fifth annual Concert for Chuck ( takes place from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday at Musica in Akron. Freidhof died of pancreatic cancer in 2006; the concert benefits the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The show features performances by Kristine Jackson, the Bodhis, the Tofu Fighters, Winslow, TM Gottl, and Zach and the Love Initiative. Vegan chef and writer Isa Chandra Moskowitz will also be on hand, showing off his cooking skills. Tickets are $10.Send feedback to [email protected].

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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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