The 1990s was the dawn of the Punk / Alternative mass-market music fest. Lollapalooza and The Warped Tour became institutions across the country. The music they featured always seemed kinda tame to me—not to mention such a drain on both the wallet and the soul.
For me, the perfect underground rock music fest is, was and will always be WRUW-FM 91.1’s Studio-A-Rama in the Mather Courtyard on the “back porch” of WRUW’s studio, on the campus of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bop in—have a great time with your friends, enjoy the BYOB and some really left-of-center bands—and then bop back out. No security, no hassle. Studio-A-Rama is the best, I’m telling you.
The never-before-published photo essay below is by Cleveland music scene photographer extraordinaire, Karen Novak. The images are from Studio-A-Rama #279 which took place on July 25, 1998.
Skip to the end for a treat—a live recording of New Bomb Turks from Studio-A-Rama
Someone should write a history of Studio-A-Rama, which began sometime way back in 1875 (uh, was that before radio?). Trivia for you: the name derives from the name of the weekly live music broadcast WRUW hosted, which was captured in their “A” studio. Hence “STUDIO-A-Rama.” Get it?
“Studio-A,” as we WRUW programmers called it, evolved over the years into a semi-pro affair with excellent live sound provided by a professional sound company (Rich Masirik’s Vertical Sound for many years), staged outdoors in a small, natural amphitheater setting. Simultaneously broadcast on 91.1, the festival was eight or ten bands on a Saturday afternoon—usually at the end of July—that started after lunch and was over by 10pm. And it was FREE.
During my thirteen years in Cleveland and decade on the air at WRUW as Program Director and programmer, so many great bands played Studio-A, like Glazed Baby, Craw, Boulder, Didjits, Mount Shasta, U.S. Maple—too many to mention or remember right now! Someday perhaps I’ll write about these shows in detail. They all had fun backstories and great cutting-edge music.
Apparently, word is in 2022 that Studio-A-Rama has stopped being a fest because of Covid (2019 was the last year). I hope the event makes a comeback soon!
According to Ron Kretsch’s intro, WRUW programmer, and man-about-town, “Mystery” Jim Raishart curated the show the 1998 edition. Jim sure did a great job. I hear WRUW’s Ron Cass at the end of the broadcast listing all the bands which is where I got the line-up. Online documentation for this installment of Studio-A seems to be non-existent.
Karen Novak’s photos were originally captured for a U.S. Rocker feature that never ran. I can’t remember if we were out of time or out of space or out of money. The Rocker was near the end of its lifecycle and running kinda rough after a decade in the rock ‘n roll trenches.
Speak of rough in the trenches, there was a war on the bushes in front of the stage and a huge fist fight during New Bomb Turks—and WRUW captured it on Digital Audio Tape (skip to the end of this post).
I wish I could remember more. Do you? Do you have photos, audio or video? Please contact me.
Enjoy the photos and commentary.
Quazi Modo were the cool CLE party band. Was weird to see them in the light of the day!
I remember these guys sounded pretty damn good. That’s ‘cuz rock ‘n roll always sounds good.
Lou. What a cut up. Quazi Modo’s comic relief/wild man on keys.
Craw was a CWRU band through-and-through. They were formed on campus, practiced one block over from WRUW, got their initial airplay on the station (playing Studio-A on at least one occasion), and eventually became kings of the scene with their own record label. Here’s the band’s guitarist Rockie Brockway manning the booth. You can see label signee Disengage’s Jason Byers behind the table. Rock on.
Okay, 21st century retcon: time traveler from the future looking at her smartphone or…?
Red Giant was space rock and therefore my favorite Cleveland band for many years.
Of course these guys sounded epic outdoors on a beautiful summer afternoon!
We had been recording The Conservatives at our home studio, The Invisible City, all summer. I think the band felt like they were in jail in those isolation booths. Studio-A was their get-out-of-jail party.
It’s not easy to bring punk to a big stage…
Those cigarette lungs can run out of breath (ask me how I know!).
The sound was massive–I’m gonna make the big call and say this was the best The Conservatives ever sounded.
Jack Shit actually gave a shit. Ironic?
Man, those suits must have been hot! The Conservatives wrap things up.
Like all good fests, people rolled up with coolers, tents and grills—in this case right out on the college’s lawn!
Since many of these bands were local and small club bands, hearing them on a massive pro sound system for the first time… well, let’s just say it was a revelation in almost every case. I don’t want anyone to forget how cool that was. Blew my mind every year!
Keelhaul was starting to take off. They became a huge Cleveland export.
These guys got the crowd all rowdy…
…And New Bomb Turks took the audience over the edge.
Were they fighting each other—or the bushes? Or…?
I can’t tell you how much violence at show sucks. Especially at Studio-A-Rama. Just ruined things for years to come.
I guess we were so busy shooting the fight, we missed photographing New Bomb Turks!
From the YouTube description:
As originally broadcast on WRUW FM 91.1
00:00 Ron Kretsch intro
00:36 Let’s Dress Up The Naked Truth
02:52 So Long Silver Lining
04:38 Jukebox Lean
07:52 Fingernail Chomp
10:20 Raw Law
13:34 (The Cure For The) Common Cold Shoulder
16:36 Veronica Lake
19:03 Minimum Wages Of Sin
21:09 Born Toulouse Lautrec
23:57 Jaguar Ride (Electric Eels cover)
27:01 Professional Againster
29:45 Long Gone Sister
32:03 At Rope’s End
34:03 Eyes Of Satan (Pagans cover)
36:07 Bolan’s Crash
50:36 Last Lost Fight
54:33 Tail Crush
58:43 Ron Cass outro
New Bomb Turks:
Jim Weber, Eric Davidson, Bill Randt, Matt Reber
**I don’t own the rights to this recording. For historical reference only.
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