I’ve had some wacky ideas in my day. This concert on Thursday, February 8th, 2001 at the old Grog Shop on Coventry has got to be one of the more out-there ones. One that actually worked, mind you. Which is all that matters, right?
Dig this: two age-old, self-diagnosed “problems” raised by “people” from Cleveland, Ohio (which means take them with a big grain of Morton Salt Mine salt) are that 1) “this town is just big enough that you can’t know everyone” and 2) “the Westside never goes to the Eastside and vice versa.”
As a refugee from Erie, Pennsylvania I always though this talk was ridiculous. I had lived on both sides of Cleveland (albeit mainly on the Eastside) and frequently attended shows both east and west (and south!). When I was with U.S. Rocker, publisher Brenda Mullen and I traveled all over bumfuck Ohio to see great bands. And surely you can make friends anywhere good music is at. So what exactly was the big deal?
Sure enough Razak would draw a huge crowd west of the Cuyahoga, but on the Eastside (like at the Beachland Ballroom), fucking crickets.
[Funny aside about crickets and the Grog Shop: a bunch of Speak In Tongues residents and I had once purchased about $100 worth of LIVE CRICKETS from Lakewood Pets or whatever it was called and smuggled them into some terrible emo band show at the Grog Shop (Jets to Brazil? Some band with SIT roots who had gotten too big for their britches). One hundred bucks! We should have been spending that on food. We were starving. So that gives you and idea of how hellbent we were on ‘creatively disrupting’ the show (“In between songs it will be real crickets!”). But we didn’t count on the poor crickets going into shock in the arctic-like Cleveland winter air on the run from the car to the club. When we attempted to release the insects inside the Grog they just clumped inside the many bags…silently. So we set them down near the soundboard which was the only warm area. I’ve always wondered if they came back to life later in the evening, after they defrosted, but we were long gone…]
Now, my future life in Los Angeles was but a distant glimmer on the horizon at this stage, but I had been studying the place via what I thought was the greatest band ever, Black Flag (I still think they are pretty awesome despite Greg Ginn being kind of a barf bag).
Back in the ’70s Black Flag would tour L.A., their home city. They built up their initial fame basically playing concerts within a 50 mile radius of Hermosa Beach. No need to take it too far down the road at that time.
Could this technique work in Cleveland? Could we create a Speak In Tongues package show and tour it around our hometown? Leverage the cumulative (micro-) fame of each band to build us all up?
I’m happy to tell you it worked!
This was a super successful show attendance-wise, and featured some great playing from my number one fave Y2K band, Oblongata (featuring co-founder Joe Williams behind the kit), and the inimitably rando hip hop stylings of Beckett Warren aka Begit N Frenz.
Oblongata’s John Delzoppo remembers:
“[It’s] remarkable that there’s one of me playing [the Grog Shop’s] pinball machine, as that’s been a big hobby of mine for the past ten years and I’m a world ranked player, which I recognize sounds very goofy without context. I used to always play that one with Roder at shows and he would jump around and act like a goof while he was playing. Great memories.”
The flier got me into a bit of trouble though. Actually there were two fliers that got me into trouble!
The first attempt was a mushroom trip-inspired collage of tabloid and porn imagery (the whole Sean Carnage aesthetic in a nutshell, pardon the pun).
I was so far gone at this point in time that I didn’t realize that one could not go up and down Coventry Road (nor Madison and Detroit Aves. in Lakewood) and post imagery of grostesque alien babymen, one of whom had a giant dong on his head.
In fact I was shocked—shocked, I tell you—when I returned the next day and ALL the posters had been ripped down. Well that’s unusual. But I can fix this, I thought. My solution? Spend yet another day driving all over town and hanging posters all over again. This time with copious amounts of duct tape!
When those were in turn torn down (leaving tell tale signs of gooey duct tape destruction in their wake) I lamented to Kathy at the Grog Shop: “Some asshole tore down all the posters for our show.” Kathy did not miss a beat. “Sean—I took them down! You can’t post fliers for a bar show with babies and penises on them in public spaces!” Oh, uh, yeah. Didn’t think of things that way.
Back to the drawing board…
Columbine had recently happened (you can already tell that this is heading in the wrong direction, huh?) and there was media hysteria about “high school hit lists” that these devious teenage fuckers were passing around (note: Millennials had yet to be widely disparaged culturally—they were ‘Gen Y’ at the time… such precious darlings).
Could one of these hit lists spark the next Columbine?
So I was flexing my wry / faux-catty / Heathers sense of humor by spoofing this in concert poster, mk. II when I visualized my own version of a high school hit list.
Semi-inadvertently I may have infuriated some good friends, my former proteges the Chargers Street Gang.
I engineered the Chargers’ first two 7″ EPs at The Invisible City and they made a big deal about how I was their “producer.” And I was, like, “Oh stop!” They billed me as Sean “Mutt” Carney (after Def Leppard and Shania Twain Svengali Mutt Lange—gag me) on the records without telling me and I thought that was dumb.
“If I’m really so crucial,” I told them, “Let me record your LP when you make it big.” “Oh yeah totally!” And then… they didn’t. Bastards. I smelled that coming so I was like, whatever. So silly.
Ultimately the band dropped the drummer and me, and they were way better for it.
But maybe I got too catty about things on this flier? I want to extend a belated apologize to all the Chargers if there are any lingering bad feelings. Am I a bad person? Nah. Just a Scorpio with a stinging tail who does dumb shit sometimes.
But ultimately the joke was on me, which is how life is: you give things what you think is a tweak and karma slaps you back double-strength. Whack!
Here’s what happened: my band Razak Solar System broke up while we were waiting to play at this show—our show. Kevin had just joined 9 Shocks Terror (Razak’s singer/synthesist Steve was 9 Shocks’ long time singer of course) and didn’t want to play in a band that was iffy compared to 9 Shocks. Can’t say I blamed him even though the timing fucking hurt. Happened right before we went onstage and I was pretty devastated—too sad to rock and I played really crummy.
My crummy playing was becoming all too common unfortunately.
I was starting to circle down the booze ‘n drugs sink hole but I didn’t know it at the time. Too many beers and I was pretty inept. I’m sure that frustrated Steve and Kevin. It certainly frustrated me. Addiction is confusing and I just don’t make great decisions when I’m fucked up.
Fortunately Razak got to play the Grog one more time—for our final gig ever, with the Chargers no less—for what was probably our best performance ever (I stayed dry for that one), and that made interpersonal relationships better again for awhile.
John Delzoppo pointed out that you can see the flier for the final Razak show in the back ground of the pinball pic above.
Now when I look back at this show all I can do is be grateful and marvel at what young babies we all were. Surrounded by friends. A real gang, but not a street gang. A music nerd gang.
I miss every one of you.
Enjoy the photos and let me know please if I left off any names.
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