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01.25.2008: D-80, Down 2 Grind, Injektion XL, Psych Ward and 419 @ The Underground

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On January 25, 2008, The Underground located in Sandusky, Ohio, put on a hip-hop/rap show with the help of VM Music Group featuring D-80, Down 2 Grind, Injektion XL, Psych Ward, and Sandusky’s own 419. While the turn-out was less than expected, overall, the show was a good time.

One of the most impressive acts of the night was D-80, promoting his new CD Sophisticated Hood. Despite the small crowd, D-80 still had everyone’s head bobbing with his catchy beats and Kanye influence. D-80 was kind enough to give a copy of his five track album, and overall I give it a B+. My favorite track: “Welcome”, to listen to this track and a few others visit www.myspace.com/d80ceo.

After plenty of drinking, Injektion XL took stage and took over. The whole crowd sang along: “I-N-J-E-K-T-I-O-N”, and that,s when the girls started to get a little wild. By the time Psych Ward was getting ready to get on stage, the girls were ready to dance. The stage became flooded with females and soon, Psych Ward.

419 closed out the evening with little crowd involvement, but Injektion XL and Psych Ward seem to be hard acts to follow on a cold, desolate night in Sandusky. However everyone should be expecting a bigger crowd, Friday, February 1st, VM Music Group presents The City Mission Food Drive at the Phantasy Concert Club. Most of the groups are TBA, but tickets are cheap and it’s for a good cause: you must bring at least one can of food to enter (or an extra $2.00). For more information on this show and others visit www.myspace.com/vmmusicgroup.

12.09.2007: Red {An Orchestra} @ Saint Stanislaus Church

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This may be a first ladies and gentlemen, when Domain Cleveland covers something from the classical realm of entertainment. But one of Cleveland’s little gems outside of the Cleveland Orchestra or The Akron Symphony Orchestra has brought their own twist on the spirit of Christmas just as the season has begun. Red {An Orchestra} performed at one of Cleveland’s legendary Catholic churches, St. Stanislaus. The performance’s theme was entitled “A Red Solstice” and it was a glorious sight to witness.

The first half of the spectacle was 100 percent musical without vocals and was symphonic and serene at its best. This orchestra was mostly comprised of strings, brass and percussion and painted an intricate portrait with sounds. They covered mostly material from the 16th and 17th centuries inspired by Vivaldi’s “Winter Solstice.” It was enchanting as you listened to the calming overtones while viewing the elaborate religious statues, stained glass windows and intricate woodcarvings displayed throughout this massive church. Loud uproarious cheers from the full crowd in attendance draped the symphonic group like a blanket of fresh fallen snow and it brought a warmth into the palatial parish halls.

The second half of this three part performance brought us more from the past with some influences from the 1930s as they played “Concerto No. 4” to a delighted audience. It was relenting and captivating at the same time with its soft brushes of violins, cello and viola rendered with drums. They introduced a local 16-year-old female phenom on violin, giving us a scintillating solo bringing tears of joy to us all. Although classical music is an acquired taste for many, this brand of contemporary meeting traditional tones may have grasped the attentions of your modern-day music lover.

The third act of this theatrical showcase was backed by a full choir of performers and their voices blew us away. They interpreted the birth of Jesus Christ in an elaborate and classy way as they introduced “The Christmas Story” to the world. A falsetto tenor male lead started the show bringing a chill to everyone as he sang his heart out telling us the magical story from The New Testament of The Bible. They used striking visuals, such as dancers and singers dressed as angels to simple choral charms. They also had a lovely female lead soprano belting out marvelously from the stage to the entire hall. Who would’ve thought to convert an antique church into a music hall is beyond this critic’s mindscape but it worked very well.

Red {An Orchestra} did it right to kickstart Christmas with a bang by giving us this great version of music, song and dance and turning this old relic of Slavic Village’s past, which is one of our area’s true treasures, into a monument of musical purpose. This little group of men and women had big talent and could’ve easily rivaled our large orchestra that performs at Severance Hall each year.

09.29.2007: Dirty Wee Middens @ Hustler’s

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Hustlers is an up-and-coming live music venue in the heart of Dundee. Located up two flights of stairs, it is a small and intimate bar, but has already begun to build up a reputation for itself by hosting a number of bands including Trashlight Vision, Patchwork Grace and The Eddies. The Dirty Wee Middens were supporting Ed Tenpole at Adrenachrome, the new, once a month, alternative music night at Hustlers.

The Dirty Wee Middens, from Dundee themselves, formed in 2002 are a horror punk band, and have an impressive fan base in their hometown. Many of these fans turned out and the bar was full.

Although the Middens were one guitarist down, it did not stop them from giving a hell raising performance. They pretty much left the set list open for the audience to decide and although that made their set rather chaotic and almost unprofessional, it added a nice personal touch to the night, which the crowd appreciated (especially as they had spent the last hour or so being told to “Dance you miserable fuckers”).

“Embarrassing Wood” was one of the first songs of the night. It had a catchy chorus and had most of the crowd singing along at the tops of their voices.

One of the Middens most popular songs is “Purple People Eater”. Originally a novelty song by Sheb Wooley in 1958, this track was supposed to be the Midden’s first single, but due to problems with their record company, was never released. They ploughed through the song at a rate of knots and only stopped for a breath once the song was finished and they had to decide what song to play next.

“I know what song we haven’t played yet” said singer Eerie Von Lee, to the rest of the band. He then proceeded to hum a few lines of the intro that is featured on the album until the rest of the band had caught onto what song is next. “Carnival of Disgrace” was a fun and bouncy song, with some quite sinister lyrics about “killer clowns from outer space”.

The band played a good number of covers throughout the night, including “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones. This made the crowd split into two groups, the ones who shouted along to the words (changed from “teenage kicks right through the night”, to “suck my dick right through the night”) and the ones who were almost to the point of rolling on the floor laughing.

They also covered “Love at First Fright” by the Murderdolls and “Rambo” by the Frankenstein Drag Queens from the Planet 13, which made it plain to see the bands major influences, even to those who don’t know the Middens.

Ignoring shouts from the crowd to play “Bonzo” by the Ramones, the band opted instead to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”. They managed to make the song their own with Eerie’s distinctive voice and turned it into something other than ‘another Ramones cover’.

“Bring Back the Revamp” is a punky sounding song, which could have sounded out of place at a Middens gig as it breaks the unwritten rule of their songs- (blood, sex and rock and roll (and zombies)), but it seemed right at home in the midst of the chaotic set.

The sound may not always be great, and the set unorganized, but the Middens always deliver good music with bags full of energy. The Middens went out with a bang, playing their last ever gig on Halloween at Hustlers.

10.21.2007: The Yellow Jackets @ Night Town

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Night Town was treated to a very special performance by one of modern jazz’s legendary quartets, The Yellow Jackets. The nearly full room was going nuts as they opened the show with some hot contemporary jazz, both old and new material from their 25th Anniversary album that was released in 2006 by Heads Up Records. The audience was electric as horns were blaring, bass was thumping, drums were banging and the piano was twinkling creating a great vibe in the club.

Bob Mintzer, the band’s leader and saxophonist extraordinaire, was witty and funny as he chimed in about the ensuing seventh game of the American League Championship Series between The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians playing to the partial Cleveland audience with tons of banter before setting up their next set of swinging jazz beats. They went back a few years to their jam sessions for an elaborate and clever tune that was avant-garde and whimsical. Jimmy Haslip pounded on the bass like he was mad at it or as if it owed him money. The combination of Russell Ferrante on piano and Marcus Baylor on the drums created a funky combination that tapped our toes and made us want more. It was a party atmosphere as folks were eating, drinking and clapping along during interludes of music.

They kept on bringing the funk as they whipped the crowd into a frenzy with shouts, whistles and hands clapping before, during and after each set. If you’re not accustomed to a contemporary jazz show, you’ll notice that the people in attendance will occasionally give their love in the middle of the performance as a way of gratitude for the artists’ exceptional skills and talent. The Yellow Jackets took things down a few notches and played a soft ballad entitled “Geraldine.” It was seductive and perfect for this intimate crowd of folks creating a romance amongst the room. They brought things back to a fever pitch with “Jackets Town” as Baylor wailed away on his drum kit, Mintzer blew away on his tenor saxophone, Ferrante banged away at his piano and Haslip swung on his bass guitar giving us a beautiful performance. Everybody at Night Town ate it up like a king-sized buffet and wanted more. This group defines their genre and gave Cleveland a four star performance to die for and will be enshrined in our memories for years to come.

10.07.2007: Steven Curtis Chapman and Sanctus Real @ The Akron Baptist Temple

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The Akron Baptist Temple was converted essentially into a large amphitheater as Steven Curtis Chapman and Sanctus Real brought the best of Christian rock and worship to Northeast Ohio. The church was packed to the rafters for this show and it had an exuberance of energy flowing throughout the night.

Toledo’s Sanctus Real kicked things off with a bang as they performed mostly new material from their album The Face Of Love. They did perform some older material though for their die-hard fans and they seemed to really enjoy the newer stuff as well. They rocked out with the title track, “The Face of Love” getting everyone excited and upbeat. The mood got turned down a notch as they performed “Benjamin” and explained the meaning of the story behind this track, as it was about their bass player’s newborn son and the passing of his father and how both will see each other in Heaven. It was quite a somber moment and chilled the nerves of the crowd in attendance. Sanctus Real rocked out hard and kept on giving us a great show. Although their set was shorter than this critic expected, they gave their hometown faithful a great rock show combining spiritual enlightenment and powerful presence. It was a great appetizer for the main course of the night.

Before he started his set, Steven Curtis Chapman was promoting two charities that he created to help Christian families adopt children and sponsoring orphans; Change For Orphans and Show Hope and you can go to www.stevencurtischapman.com for more information on how to support these great causes. He was speaking about the importance of adoption and helping children around the world who need families and it brought a calming, yet extremely emotional, feeling in the church. Chapman and his group switched gears and kicked it into high gear with both older and more recent tracks getting the audience in a frenzy.

He went old school and played “Saddling Up The Horses” to get the folks dancing and singing up a storm. Chapman then introduced some new material from his upcoming album This Moment, which will be out on Oct. 23, and started out with a new track, “We Are The Children of God” and had some girls who won a contest via his Web site wearing t-shirts and holding signs with lyrics to the chorus and everybody was singing and chanting along. Steven continued the fracas with another new song, “Sounding Crazy”, and introduced his son, Caleb, on guitar as they cranked out the tunes. He then got sentimental about his daughter, Emily, dedicating “Fingerprints of God” to her as he was singing his heart out toward the stars. It was raucously loud as the full crowd was shouting gleefully, clapping their hands and dancing to the beat of this Pied Piper of Christian contemporary music. Chapman got mellow and reminisced about being in the music business for nearly 20 years and told the audience that he wished to perform everything from his extensive catalog and to please his loving brood, he played a medley of hits from the sublime to the clever and at times it was contemplative and at other times it was quite fun. He then shared a story of being home from the road and rushing to prepare for an album and was hurrying his daughters to get ready for bed and as he dashed to his studio, God told him to remember why you’re home and it gave him inspiration for another new track he shared from his new release, “Cinderella.” Steven jokingly asked his fans who were parents to read stories and cherish these special moments with your children as they listened to the lyrics of this sappy ballad. He continued to give everything of himself to the fans in attendance and they ate it up like Holy Communion. It felt more like being with your best friend than being with a rock superstar; although there were hundreds packed into the church, it felt more intimate and exclusive, yet inclusive as we all gathered to witness a great concert. Chapman closed out with one of his biggest hits to date, “Diving In”, and it was pandemonium as there was dancing, hands raised and clapping as the show closed for the night.

The combination of Steven Curtis Chapman and Sanctus Real gave us a chance to see the old and new faces of Christian rock and allowed us a glimpse of different tastes and senses of the mind. It was uplifting, luminous and spiritually satisfying. You felt the spirit of God at this show; yet it was a rock concert and having both of those vernaculars in the same sentence is an oxymoron, but it definitely defines the experience we had at this festivity.

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