04.03.2012: Guster @ The Kent Stage

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Though not known as a loud, complicated rock band, Guster decided to do a stripped down acoustic tour and recently stopped at The Kent Stage for a show. The band was joined by a cellist and a violinist, but otherwise they kept the songs pretty simple.

With a loud, energetic crowd cheering them on, Guster entertained with a long set full of songs from each of their albums. All smiles, the band kept the show moving with several surprises.

Leading up to the show the band had asked members of the crowd, through Twitter and Facebook, to bring Matchbox cars to the show. When all the cars were gathered at the front of the stage, Guster explained they would use to cars to decide where to take their set. At one point, the band called out someone who brought a particular car and asked that person to request a song. When the guy requested the song “Window” the band came off stage, sat in the man’s lap and played the song just for him. At another point they used tweets from the members of the audience to decide between two songs. Guster told the crowd they would try any cover song requested as long as the band picked that crowd member’s car. Throughout the night they made good on their word by attempting (usually with comically bad results) 4 or 5 tunes such as “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. This song was “sung” by the drummer, Brian, who thankfully sang very little else (although he rocked the hell out of this number).

Some of the songs sounded right at home stripped down, while others lost a little in the translation. Adding the cello and violin was also hit or miss. In some songs, the strings brought a unique layer to the songs, often doubling as the synths and keyboards the band uses. But other times the strings failed to add anything outside of a rhythm track. The crowd was treated to a few songs the band doesn’t normally play in their full sets like, “Rainy Day”. Highlights included “Satellite”, an upbeat rock track off Ganging Up On The Sun and “Rocketship”, a mellow-yet-anthemic tune off Goldfly.

10.13.2010: Gwar with The Casualties @ House Of Blues

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Gwar live
Photos courtesy of Eris

Early shows screw me all up. So, unfortunately, I arrived at the House of Blues just as The casualties were beginning their set. Apologies to Infernaeon and Mobile Deathcamp – who I really enjoyed the last time I saw them live and was looking forward to seeing again.

The Casualties will tell you that their goal is to bring back the glory days of punk. With a look, sound and sensibility that calls to mind the likes of The Exploited, they do just that. Mixing some of their own better known standards, like “Under Attack” with the occasional Ramones cover, they got the crowd worked up into a pretty good frenzy, capping it all of with their own Wall of Death in the Pit before turning things over to Gwar.

What can even be said about Gwar live that hasn’t been said? Continuing the story of their exploits here on Earth, we now find Gwar commanding an army of zombies and they used those formerly human meat shield to full effect right off the bat, with a quick decapitation during their opening number. The blood flowed freely as Oderus called them forth for first single off the new album and commanded “Zombies, March!” Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin were the prime targets du jour this evening, but Barack Obama wasn’t spared either. Sadly, Bonesnapper fell to Sawborg Destructo during an epic battle but the rest of the Gwar crew were able to save the body so that it could be consumed in traditional Gwar funerary style during “Bring Back the Bomb”. Despite being beheaded and eaten, he “got better” and returned later on that night and was on hand for “Sick of You” and was able to wrap things up during the encore before they returned to space to continue their exploits.

Another memorable Gwar experience and one that Gwarriors everywhere hope to be continuing for a long time to come. I don’t know how they keep the same stunts fresh after 26 years, but they do. As always, a show not to be missed.



04.30.2010: Faith and the Muse @ The Phantasy Concert Club

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Faith and the Muse is a darkwave/gothic band that never tours so I had this one marked on my calendar from day one. If that sort of music appeals to you, definitely check them out on YouTube or at

The local supporting acts were good. I missed the first opener and got there during Ludwyg’s set. Ludwyg plays a downtempo brand of gothic synth and they do it well. The one knock is that they don’t have a lot of presence. With only two live performers, one of which is stuck behind a drum set, it’s hard to generate stage energy and as a result the performance tends to drag. The fact that they have a dark, brooding sound doesn’t help. Case in point: when I first walked in and caught them, I was impressed; but by the time they finished I was ready for the next act.

Queue Up was next. As another two member act, I was apprehensive, but was quickly proven wrong. Ali brings a presence to the stage with her animated vocal style and plays well off of guitarist Dennis Yurich’s more somber persona. With a musical selection that move from moody and gothic to borderline burlesque, there was never a dull moment and if they’ve lost anything since their initial iteration in the 90s, it doesn’t show. If you have the chance to see them live, they’re definitely worth it as Ali will draw you in to the performance.

Faith and the Muse’s live show was amazing; it truly bordered on the spiritual. The only time I wasn’t transfixed, staring at the stage, was when I closed my eyes so I could feel the music during some of their instrumental stuff. Lots of tribal drums, mixed with the gothic violin and bass wove a tapestry that was experienced at least as much as it was heard. Add the male and female vocals, with their completely different styles and it was…well…amazing. I routinely tell bands afterward that they had “a great set”. After this one, I sought out William Faith, shook his hand and literally thanked him for the experience.

To add one final bit of info that may put this into perspective: I never got around to getting a drink from the bar during their set. They’re still on the road for a bit. If they’re headed your way, go – even if you don’t think the style doesn’t appeal to you. There WILL be something for everyone. I think I may have found religion – or at least spirituality.


04.28.2010: Owl City, Lights! and Paper Route @ House Of Blues

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Nashville’s Paper Route brought their pop-infused style of indie rock to the House of Blues to support chart-topping Owl City and Canada’s Lights! Despite their electronic leanings, Paper Route played with a refreshing straightforward energy. With songs that spanned the spectrum of the human experience and an infectious presence about them, they quickly won over a crowd who had, by and large, never heard of them and weren’t there to see them. These guys are definitely worth checking out.

It’s been several months now since I received an email regarding a hot new performer who went simply by the moniker Lights! I checked out her press and graciously reviewed her CD and was, frankly, blown away. Perhaps better testimony is the fact that my kids didn’t want me to turn off her CD when they first overheard it. In fact, they were both quickly singing along with it, despite receiving constant reinforcement from MTV and the like. When you get the chance to see someone with that sort of cross-generational appeal, you jump at it. With a subdued, almost quirky, persona she subtly drew the crowd in by degrees, covering most of the material on her current CD, The Listening. With only her keyboard and two backing musicians, her performance was all about simply sharing the music and let there be no doubt – her music is something to be shared. From the haunting chill of “February Air” to the poignant melancholy of “Pretend” or the quiet power of “Lions”, she managed to combine a great deal of the human experience into one small evening of music and did it all with a quaint “aw shucks” attitude that was refreshing to see. She is definitely one of the acts to keep your eyes (and ears) on.

Owl City leapt out to the polar end of the spectrum with a glitzy, high energy raucous stage show ripped straight out of 80s variety television. Adam Young, Owl City’s omnipresent frontman, was there to put on a show and make sure that he had your attention while he did it. While the whole thing may, at times, have bordered on sickly sweet, he always seemed to know just when to pull it back so as to not lose the audience along the way, making sure instead that they gobbled every bit of it up. While everybody seemed to be able to sing right along with most of the set, the biggest pop of the night was, of course, reserved for the runaway hit “Fireflies”, which threatened to blow the roof off the place.

Week night shows are notoriously hit or miss but on this particular night, you’d have a hard time convincing me that it wasn’t a Saturday night in the heart of the summer. As this tour winds down, make sure to catch it if you can and if you can’t be sure to check out all three of these up and coming acts. You’ll thank me for it.


03.13.2010: HammerFall @ Peabody’s

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After too many years, HammerFall returned to the U.S. in support of their latest offering, No Sacrifice, No Victory. Here’s hoping it won’t be another five years before they come back to Cleveland.

Perhaps it was the anticipation of seeing the Swedish power metal masters so soon, but the opening acts didn’t seem to add much to the bill. Suffer the Wicked and Wretch were both quality bands and certainly fit the bill stylistically but with the possible exception of the unexpected surprise of a Metal Church cover, didn’t do much to get one’s attention.

Power Glove provided the direct support and for as much press as they get, I frankly expected more. The self-styled purveyors of video game metal came across as a poor man’s GWAR, but without the controversy or punk rock willingness to really go for the throat. Their irreverent approach to the power metal sound, which is so often overly intense, was refreshing but the execution seemed haphazard. I will reiterate just to be fair to all of these acts, though: I was there to see HammerFall. Having arrived at the venue for an interview with HammerFall frontman, Joacim Cans, made for a long day full of a lot of anticipation for me. I’ll sprinkle my review with a grain of salt, feel free to do the same.

With a catalog spanning over 15 years, HammerFall certainly had plenty to draw upon. While the focus was, obviously, on the new album, they made it clear early on that they would be hitting on the standards that spanned all of those years and they albums that made them great for HammerFall fans. Vocalist Joacim Cans has the ability to mesmerize the listener with his voice even during a sound check, during a full on live performance, it’s truly something to experience. The return of Fredrik Larsson on bass has really brought back a lot of the band’s vintage power metal sound even as they’ve moved away from the style lyrically. The departure of Stefan Elmgren, who had provided lead guitar for the band for a decade seemed like it would leave a pretty big whole but Pontus Norgren really seems to have infused the band with a lot of vibrancy. Let there be no doubt: after all these years, these guys can still rock.


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