Under the bridge, Cleveland-style, with Brian Straw at Hart Crane Park; Or, how I learned to let loose in the middle of the Zika epidemic


This was a really special event, as it was an unsanctioned, D.I.Y. outdoor concert in a public space. I’m all for that kind of shit. I’m not sure the exact date but let’s say it was July 2002.

I know it was around that time because I was deep in preparations to move to Los Angeles, which took place in late October 2002.

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

My days were spent selling the shit I owned, disposing of junk I was hoarding, packing the scraps that were worth anything (like these photos) in boxes for the future. (The future is now.)

This concert was a respite. A chance to get out of the house and hang with my Speak In Tongues friends.

Our all-ages hangout and venue had closed earlier that year—relive the success & the trauma

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Straw playing the Jerrycaster beneath the Superior Viaduct bridge. Photo: Carnage. 

Brian Straw had lived in and above Speak In Tongues and was an artistic and musical leader there (as opposed to being a scene guy). I really enjoyed Brian’s heartfelt and musically accomplished performances.

I got a chance to play in the ensemble, Walls Of Malm, that tackled Brian’s multi-part experimental composition.

Check out Walls Of Malm

Brian also played on the Green Party of Ohio benefit with Razak Solar System, which you can read about

One of my favorite of Brian’s improv ensembles was Our Mother’s Moustache with the late Ted Flynn.

See a video of Our Mother’s Moustache by Malcom Ryder

OMM opened for Zeek Sheck along with artist Jake Kelly’s Dr. Zombie MD, which I was part of.

Brian could/can play all sorts of instruments masterfully. And noisily. Straw’s the real deal. A true musician.

He was especially great on the gas can cello/banjo-thing that Ted made called the “Jerrycaster.”

READ: An interview with Brian Straw where he talks about the Jerrycaster

“I was inspired by Hart Crane’s poetry and always wanted to do something in that park,” said Brian Straw. Hart Crane was an ambitious, heavy duty early 20th Century poet that I must admit I do not fully understand.

But, man, was this park something! Here I was, on the eve of leaving town after thirteen years, and I was still going to places I had never been before. On the banks of the Cuyahoga River south of the Flats, below the giant, imposing cement and concrete Viaduct structure, Hart Crane Park was a polished/finished space at odds with the ramshackle post-industrial wreckage I associated with the Cleveland Flats. Show opener Dave P. “The Perfect Guy” Petrovich (my Java Connection coffee shop boss and Speak In Tongues co-founder) lived across the street in a trailer and that probably figured into the venue choice as well.

So, this outdoor show was break from my packing, chance to hang, cool outdoor concert steeped in CLE history, great music—thanks, gentlemen—but also a GIANT source of anxiety for me.

That’s because—and this is a little bit lost to the sands of time and the subsequent pandemics of SARS, Ebola, COVID, etc.—this was the summer of the Zika virus!

The Plain Dealer had Zika on front page countdown every goddamn day. “It’s coming…” “Zika’s in New England.” “Zika reaches Pennsylvania.” “Zika found 100 miles away!” “IT’S HERE!!!”

AAAARGH!

Little was understood about this mosquito-born virus, but front page images of encephalitic newborns and tales of debilitating long-term effects had me slathering toxic bug repellant and layering two Citronella bracelets on each ankle and wrist to be able before embarking for this concert. I was not going to let any damn virus stop me from reaching California!

Well the good news is we all survived—and here are the photos. Enjoy. And if you have any video / audio / images from this event, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you.

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Straw was the star of the show. Here he is playing the Jerrycaster instrument, created by Ted Flynn. All photos: Sean Carnage.

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Two trumpets! Straw at the gates of Jericho. Shades of another Ohioan, Rashaan Roland Kirk.

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Dave P. “The Perfect Guy” opens.

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Brian Straw Hart Crane Park Cleveland Ohio 2002 Sean Carnage David Petrovich

Here’s everything I’ve posted about Speak In Tongues

READ: An interview with musician & Speak In Tongues sound person, Brian Straw

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