"I'm honored and pleased and privileged to be here," said Sixto Rodriguez at the beginning of his hour-long set at the Beachland Ballroom on Friday night. Rodriguez, the 66-year-old Detroit-based singer-songwriter whose career has gotten a second look thanks to a pair of reissues on the indie Light in the Attic label, adjusted his black hat and sunglasses and then added, "I love this place."
Maybe so, but the soft-spoken Rodriguez appeared to be barely holding it together when his show began, his slight voice recalling Bob Dylan's, as he essentially whispered his way through a few songs. Four songs into the set, however, he relaxed a bit, thanks in part to a three-piece backing band of younger dudes who gave him plenty of direction and provided the songs with an appropriate amount of garage-rock grit.
From that point on, the set was mesmerizing. "Sugar Man" was delivered with a series of twisted guitar riffs. The concert came to a strange, awkward end (it really wasn't clear that the show was over), before Rodriguez returned for a two-song encore — though it took some encouragement from the sparse crowd to get him back onstage. "You can see I'm developing as an artist," said Rodriguez. "Consider this gig a big step in the right direction." That's an appropriate summation of his performance. — Jeff Niesel
Zaza, Now Shred-Free
Clevelanders whose memories go back a few years might be startled to see the mention of a band called Zaza playing at the Beachland Tavern with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart on Thursday. No, it's not a reunion of the hard-rocking hair band that sailed to the top of the Cleveland rock scene in the late '80s and early '90s. And it has nothing to do with that band's former guitar player Neil Zaza, who has continued to do clinics and performances and make instrumental records since his band's 1992 demise.
This Zaza — like their friends the Pains — is yet another buzz band out of red-hot Brooklyn, a dreamy, sultry ambient pop duo influenced by shoegazer bands like My Bloody Valentine. The New York Zaza released a four-track EP called Cameo late last year. Their plush, warmly melodic music is well worth a listen. But to those of us who remember the old Zaza and their 1991 CD Party With the Big Boys, it's just, well, kind of weird. — Anastasia Pantsios
Q&A With Simeon Soul Charger
Aaron Brooks is no longer a Trendy punk. Simeon Soul Charger, his mature new rock band, recently released its self-titled debut EP. If you're looking for the infectious, wise-assed pop-punk Brooks played in Trendy, you'll either be disappointed or impressed. "To make a long story short, I grew up, my taste changed, my goals changed, and now I'm here," says Brooks. "I'm over the lowbrow now."
You had a professional management company with Trendy, but now you're literally giving the music away. Why do the DIY thing?
It's the perfect time to do it. Everyone is broke and in search of something new. The major music industry is in shambles, and the labels that are able to sign bands are putting out mountains of formula-driven garbage. People are going to download anyway, and I've wanted to give away the music for free since the days of Trendy. It literally makes it completely accessible on a world-wide level to anyone that wants it.
How did you go from "S&M" to songs with a cello and choir?
I think somewhere deep down I knew that writing a song like "S&M" would appeal to a large demographic, and I found comfort in that. For years, all of these abstract ideas floated through my head that used to make me think, "Well that's really beautiful, but it doesn't sound like a Trendy song." I ignored them and let them pass. The moment I decided to open my mind to them, they started becoming more abundant and more colorful. I expect to see this band expanding in many more directions in the future. — D.X. Ferris
Comment of the Week
"Let me guess ... You're a thirtysomething, hipster douchebag with horn-rimmed glasses, a Members Only jacket and a hard-on for lame, hipster 'indie' music, aren't you? Maybe you're just an asshole." – jps, in reply to Michael Gallucci's "Not Grateful for the Dead" post.