The best—and last—damn concert I saw in Cleveland

UPDATE July 17, 2022: Since publishing this post a few days ago, I’ve received a flood of DMs, emails and texts from readers filling in details I missed from this incredible night of music 20 years ago. I’ve revised this post with better info, quotes from friends and performers, and added the photos you sent me to flesh out the story. Thanks, all—it’s been wonderful to (re-)experience this show with you!

Check out this cavalcade of Y2K-era underground music stars: 9 Shocks Terror, Arab On Radar, Flying Luttenbachers, Lightning Bolt, The Locust, Wolf Eyes, Aloha—all on the same bill, in Cleveland, Ohio on July 14, 2002. Fuckin’ wow!

This was the biggest and best show I saw during thirteen years in Cleveland. Start to finish—incredible.

The bill pretty much summed up my whole ’90s/’00s Rust Belt adventure:

Tony Erba (originally in Face Value, then H100s—and by this time, 9 Shocks Terror) and Weasel Walter (with his Flying Luttenbachers, Lake Of Dracula, To Live And Shave in L.A., To Live And Shave in L.A. 2, etc etc.)—these guys were essential listening during the U.S. Rocker era, early in my Cleveland run. The former exemplified Thrash, the latter ‘Extreme Prog.’ Now they were on the same show!

READ: An oral history of U.S. Rocker—Ohio’s greatest rock magazine, 1989-93

Add in the Speak In Tongues bands like Arab On Radar,  Lightning Bolt, The Locust, Wolf Eyes, Aloha from later in my Ohio sojourn…

READ: Speak In Tongues lives again in a wild new book

I love all these groups, you see. But I understand that others might think they are totally dissimilar, as they do run the gamut from Thrash to Emo, Screamo to Noise.

Get your Noise Rock Nuggets right here

Who exactly had the bright idea—the guts—to mix these great tastes? To dip the peanut butter in the chocolate and actually book such a mixed-up line-up?

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Well, it was none other than our old friend, Ryan “Rye” Kennedy, aka Ryedood. Rye was at what seemed like every rad Cleveland concert back in the day documenting bands with his video camera. I interviewed Rye a couple years ago and he even shared some of his videos with us. Definitely read this:

Capturing the Cleveland scene: An interview with Ryedood

Like all great D.I.Y. punks—and many of us on the Cleveland scene—Rye blurred the lines between fan, documenter, performer and leader. Rye booked this blockbuster show, which was apparently a two-day event called “Cleveland Fest.” Duh.

“I’ll be honest I don’t remember most of that show,” Rye says. “I was so busy running around making sure things went smoothly that I didn’t get to enjoy any of it. That’s definitely the worst part of putting on a fest.”

As a show organizer, I can relate so much to that.

READ: A decade of D.I.Y. now online: The complete Monday Night photos, dates & performers

Fortunately, another old friend, John Neely, dug up the Cleveland Fest poster. And Oblongata / Clan Of The Cave Bear / all-around scene specialist John Delzoppo dug up the rest—including this line-up:

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

John pretty much has the deets on the whole thing (I should just know to check with John before I publish anything about Y2K-era Cleveland by now—such an oversight!).

See Oblongata destroy Chris’ Warped Records

I’m just gonna let John talk:

The show took place at Turners Hall, 7325 Guthrie Ave, near Ohio City. Close to Madison and W. 65th. It was the only show I know of that happened there. Looks like it’s been in use for wrestling events for the past 20 years. Not sure what else.

Cleveland Fest was booked by Ryan Kennedy [see above]. I believe this was the second year that Ryan was in charge, and possibly the last installment. It was a two-day event. Looks like you arrived around the halfway point of Saturday to catch the meat of the show but it was an all-day event, probably 12-15 bands each day. Once he had the fest mostly booked, the OOPS! Tour needed a Cleveland date so they were tacked onto the fest. That’s how the odd mix of all those noise rock bands sandwiched between Aloha and 9 Shocks happened.

Oops! was The Locust’s national tour that summer with a rotating cast of support bands. It expanded on the idea of the earlier Skin Graft OOPS! shows/regional tours that you first introduced me to at Speak In Tongues.

(Other cities on the summer 2002 edition had Orthrealm, Erase Errata, Rah Bras, The Get Hustle, etc. I think all dates included Lightning Bolt and Flying Luttenbachers. We were lucky to get AoR and Wolf Eyes. What a package!)

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

John Delzoppo survived Cleveland Fest 2002 with a broken lip & a bad haircut.

Wolf Eyes were particularly memorable at the Cleveland show. They started the set with a punishingly slow repetitive beat while John Olson and Aaron Dilloway aggressively shoved the crowd back away from them. After ripping hard for about five minutes their gear broke and they were done. Sick set!

Fun fact: First act at the bottom of the lineup on Saturday is 50RED, but the actual project name was So Red. That was Joe Williams‘ first solo show post-Oblongata, playing glitchy laptop electronic music. [According to Joe, So Red was “IDM and Plunderphonics-type beats.”]

Dig around and find more here if you’d like. 

One last bonus item for your enjoyment. Here I am, post-LB bleeding mouth after taking a hit in the pit, complete with self haircut disaster

9 Shocks Terror main man and “Parma’s Greatest Natural Resource”, Tony Erba, corroborates these details and adds a few more:

Crazy! I have NO MEMORY whatsoever, I mean not even the faintest, of this gig at all. 

Based on the spray painted donors names on the ceiling tiles, I think this venue was Turners Hall on Guthrie Avenue… My deceased friend and owner of Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling, one J.T. Lightning (James Haase) had his wrestling school and promoted indie wrestling cards there monthly. He was a normal suburban guy (besides being an indie wrestler, that is) who got into punk late in life and then became obsessed with it and started asking me to book shows there and in fact there was a ‘Cleveland Fest’ that we played there one year with The Locust and other luminaries.

And Turners doesn’t refer to a man’s last name—it’s actually a derivative of a German volleyball social organization. 

Matt Chernus further validates info on Turners Hall:

Cleveland All Pro Wrestling used to run shows there and then they started to book bands too. Stepsister played there a few times. Michael Graves too I think.

So there you go. Noise Rock and Punk from totally outside the established rock venue circuit, with a heaping side dish of Cleveland history. Kudos to all.

I spent some money on film for this one. The pictures below tell the story of an amazing night. It was also my last stand in a city that I still love dearly.

Within three months I had packed my things and drove out of Cleveland all the way to Los Angeles, my home ever since.

You can read about my 2002 migration from Ohio to L.A. in these posts

This was my last hurrah and it was a doozy. Here’s what I remember:

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia. Photo: Sean Carnage.

Pre-party at The Invisible City!

You may recognize Alfredo from the legendary, penultimate Speak in Tongues show.

The second to last Speak In Tongues show was the best Christmas of all time

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Aloha’s Eric Koltnow braves the punk rock parking lot scene. Photo: Carnage.

I’m pretty sure we rode to the gig with Eric Koltnow, who was an Invisible City resident at that time. Eric had the best taste in vintage vinyl and was the percussionist for Aloha.

The parking lot drinkin’ and pot smokin’ scene at this show was epic, by the way. You can see the party starting to happen over Eric’s shoulders in the pic above. I miss those times. Premonitions of Sean Carnage Parking Lot?

Aloha’s Matt Gengler recalls, “There was an amateur WWF style wrestling match happening before this show as we loaded in…”

Artist and fellow SITer, Katie Woznicki, has some less-than-rosy memories:

I am 93% sure I went to this show and somebody put a golf tee in my tire in the parking lot, although I don’t know how I missed Arab On Radar because they were basically my favorite band back then. Must have been past my bedtime!

Also there was a cop there doing security who would not help me change the tire.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Aloha were like the Radiohead of our Emo/underground scene. Mind-blowing music. Sophisticated. Cutie pies. Photo: Carnage.

Here’s Eric, Tony, Matt and Cale from Aloha getting down as the opening act. Good thing they played first. Aloha’s subtle grooves probably would not have been audible to busted eardrums after noisemeisters, The Locust and Wolf Eyes who I unfortunately don’t have photos of.

I was probably either grooving or lost in that epic parking lot.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

The crowd wanders in only to be confronted by the Luttenbachers’ thrash attack. Photo: Carnage.

I definitely made it a point to see my old friends Weasel and the still new-ish line-up of Luttenbachers. This version of the band would (ug!) implode just a few months later, which was too bad because they were on fucking fire.

Jonathan Hischke (also of My Name Is Rar-Rar) and Alex Perkolup provided the tinder for said conflagration. (I understand that as of 2022, Alex is back in the band. Rad.)

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

There’s Weasel—he had been to the outer edges of the universe with TLASILA2, but now he was back on the drum throne and more focussed than ever. This was a great era for the band! Photo: Carnage.

This is the same line-up that played my show at Speak In Tongues in late 2001.

See them in action: Flying Luttenbachers with Allergic to Whores & Ex-Models

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

If you aren’t from Rhode Island, I don’t even want to listen to ya. This was Load Records summer. Photo: Carnage.

Lightning Bolt! What can be said about this Providence-based Noise Rock duo that hasn’t already been written? These guys were darlings of the scene and worshipped by journalists too. They had it all—they deserved it.

Lightning Bolt changed the rules with their interruptive, minimalist/maximalist heavy-riffing and relentless touring.

Joe Bernard, a Begit N Frenz member during this era, recalls “showing up right before Lightning Bolt started and listening to The Great Unraveling in my car with random people after.”

“I was there! Lightning Bolt set was unforgettable,” Christa Ebert, aka Uno Lady, remembers.

Rare video! Lightning Bolt, Numbskull, Razak Solar System at Speak In Tongues

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Brian Chippendale towers above the crowd… Photo: Carnage.

Unforgettable because no Lightning Bolt show is complete without Brian Chippendale standing on a ginormous pile ‘o amplifiers. But this particular time was extra special.

Artist Jake Kelly remembers: “The craziest point of the show was when Brian Chippendale jumped off of those speakers, landed on his drum stool, and started playing in time with the music. It was something else!”

“Blew my mind!” says Ebert.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Splat! Another triumphant Lightning Bolt amp dive into the audience. Photo: Carnage.

Yep, the crowd was way into it.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Brian Straw had done sound for all these bands at Speak In Tongues. This was almost a Speak In Tongues best-of show. Photo: Carnage.

But Straw… not so much.

Experimental folk singer Brian Straw talks new music, sobriety & Speak In Tongues

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Arab On Radar was also experiencing some kind of peak this summer. Photo: Carnage.

Arab On Radar had this poo-poo, pee-pee stunted growth thing they did which, while it did not sound at all like Northeast Ohio homeboys Devo, was heir to that classic band’s devolved legacy. Artistically- and conceptually-speaking.

Exclusive: Arab On Radar’s first interview since re-forming

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Photo: Carnage.

Mohican alert! Why you blockin’ me, dude? Oh yeah…

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Steve Peffer, Tony Erba, Jim Konya, Kevin Jaworski—the 2002 9 Shocks Terror tour line-up remained intact. Photo: Carnage.

9 Shocks Terror has arrived onstage!

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lean Steve. Photo: Carnage.

Hydration is key at marathon events such as these.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

9 Shocks Terror between songs. Photo: Carnage.

9 Shocks—forever the clean up crew. Notice Jim Konya (aka Jim Sadist) sweating away on the drums in the back.

READ: 9 Shocks Terror’s SoCal tour with Tony Erba & Jim Konya changed my life

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Kevin, mid-windmill. Photo: Carnage.

The artsy-fartsy types ran away leaving only the ragers.

Internet premiere! 9 Shocks Terror video EP & “Cleveland Thrash Salad”

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

9 Shocks Terror hits it hard. Photo: Carnage.

We made a big mess. No biggie though—that always happens at 9 Shocks shows.

“You Are The Yeti”: 9 Shocks Terror at the Euclid Tavern, 1999

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Photo: Carnage.

Blonde was in this summer, I guess. (“That’s me with the black shirt and blonde hair!” says Gregory Lee Boyd.)

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

9 Shocks. Photo: Carnage.

Lean Steve—rocking corduroys in the Lake Erie July heat.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Fuck yeah! Photo: Carnage.

Naturally the band slayed.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Towering over all… 9 Shocks Terror. Photo: Carnage.

POST SCRIPT: Here are some beautiful photos various folks sent me after this post was initially published. I’m putting them after my photo essay (out of order) so I can credit the photographers properly. Thanks, all. 

Demetri Inembolidis sent these gorgeous, intimate-looking photos (no mean feat in this cavernous space) of Arab On Radar in action:

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Arab On Radar. Photo: Demetri Inembolidis.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Arab On Radar. Photo: Demetri Inembolidis.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Arab On Radar. Photo: Demetri Inembolidis.

These next photos are by exceptional photographer Scott Smallin, and more can be found on Lightning Bolt’s site right here.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Scott Smallin.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Scott Smallin.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Scott Smallin.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Scott Smallin.

Here are more from Lightning Bolt’s site from photographer ‘Nuuj’ that really show the venue and the crowd in nice detail. What a night!

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Nuuj.

Cleveland Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Nuuj.

Clevelean Fest 2002 Ohio

Lightning Bolt. Photo: Nuuj.

There ya go—the BIG show. Let me know if you see yourself in the crowd.

After this I felt I could leave Ohio artistically inspired and musically vindicated. These bands—many of them friends—were and are the best of all time. Against the odds many of the performers remain, even after 20 years, engaged and making music and art. That really says something.

Thanks again to everyone who supplied knowledge and images for this post. You are incredible!

Now let’s get ready for the trip to L.A….

Related: Speak In Tongues lives again in a wild new book

Check out the oral history of Junking Theory, one of 1999’s greatest bands

Capturing the Cleveland scene – An interview with Ryedood

Electroclash in the Flats: The Foreign Exchange Students with The Cassettes at Pat’s

Follow me on Instagram for Cleveland throwbacks & more

Watch & subscribe to my YouTube for historic Cleveland videos & more

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