Weird times at the old Grog Shop: A Festival of Seans, one Black Key & Har Mar Superstar

I’ve told you about some wacky concert promotion ideas I executed during my Cleveland years (1990-2002).

Such as performing behind a sheet with Razak Solar System, dressing up as the Easter Bunny and hopping around a violent Gordon Solie Motherfuckers show, counter-programming the final Nirvana gig, throwing an all-inclusive DIY holiday extravaganza as the wrecking ball came down at the sometimes clique-ish Speak In Tongues, touring Westside bands to the Eastside (shocking) and using penises and a ‘high school hit list’ to promote a Grog Shop show (!).

But this March 8, 2002 show at the old Grog Shop on Coventry was my piece-de-resistance:

The first (and only) Festival of Seans! Aka, Sean-O-Rama!

Sean was one of the most popular boys names from 1965-1995 and I’m a Sean so I thought, let’s gather all the Seans and have ourselves a party…

What our Cleveland audience got was a cavalcade of Seanniness—of Seannanity, if you will.

That included my band with Ian Colbert, Sean & Ian, DJ Yo Seana Bin Laden (you must understand that we all had 9/11 on the brain at this point in time), plus rising star Sean Tillmann aka Har Mar Superstar.

And—as a bonus—included on the bill was future garage rock mega star Pat Carney from the Grammy Award™-winning duo, The Black Keys.

Yeah, that’s right, you got TWO Carneys with your Seans!

Listen to 100,000 Years Of Sean & Ian on Spotify

Here’s how this all came about: was a relatively new invention around Y2K. When I used the search engine for the first time, I did what nearly everyone does—I googled my own name. The results were slightly terrifying.

I learned that I wasn’t the only ‘Sean Carney’ on the Ohio music scene—there’s another in Columbus (still) who plays a mean blues guitar. Hmm. That could be confusing. I almost immediately switched full-time to my Sean Carnage alias which I had used in print since the U.S. Rocker days. Problem solved.

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

Next thing I learned was that there were so goddamn many Seans. Almost 300,000 in the United States. My concert promoter brain was like, hmm, I could use this as an angle.

Now I’m sure I was inspired by Danny Noonan‘s recurring Festival of Pants concerts at Speak In Tongues. When Kathy from the Grog told me Sean Tillmann aka Sean Na Na was touring to Cleveland, I jumped at the chance to turn the Grog show into the first Festival of Seans.

Sean Tillmann had really blown my brain out with the second (and last) album from his Minneapolis trio, Calvin Krime, called You’re Feeling So Attractive, back in 1998.

Calvin Krime—for me—presaged the entire 21st century musical zeitgeist with musically savvy, ear-worm takes on noise rock, indie and ironic pop forms, all rendered highly-affected and affecting by Sean’s angelic teenage voice. This record still sounds so great.

I’m gonna link to Calvin Krime’s You’re Feeling So Attractive right here—do yourself a favor and listen

The record doesn’t have many plays but, fuck it, it’s a stone cold Y2K classic. That it came out on Amphetamine Reptile during the label’s less relevant post-grunge years baffled people and basically ensured only hardcore new music addicts like me listened.

I interviewed Sean in U.S. Rocker and he was really down to earth, chatting about Gary Numan and Can and shit that really mattered to me at that time.

“I’m not a big fan of Emo for Emo’s sake—that’s ridiculous,” Tillmann told me, bucking the conventions of the underground music scene at that time. “You can cross a line where you just become too….sensitive.”

Download Sean Tillmann & Calvin Krime in U.S. Rocker

After Calvin Krime dissolved, Tillmann forged ahead, first with new ‘band’ Sean Na Na—basically a solo project with backing musicians that captured the poignant and ironic highlights of Calvin Krime. But I missed the leavening Calvin Krime’s skronky noise provided. Where’s the rock, Sean?

At the Grog Shop this night it didn’t matter—the crowd was knocked out by Tillmann’s smooth vocal delivery and sweaty dancing antics.

[Later, Sean Tillmann capitalized on the boogie and became an Oughties indie scene icon as Har Mar Superstar. In fact the next time I saw him was a year later when we were both in Los Angeles.

Coincidentally I had spent the evening in bed (really) with RobertThe Kid Stays In The PictureEvans and porn actor Ron Jeremy (yuck—this was Larry Flynt‘s idea for a fun Hustler Magazine feature story).

Look at the crazy revenge I’ve taken on my late mentor Larry Flynt

Sean Tillmann

Fan art showing the shocking physical transformation of Sean Tillmann in 2003 as he became Har Mar Superstar.

Afterward I headed to Hollywood to do something… unsavory. I hit the Boulevard and, lo and behold, is that Ron Jeremy in tighty whiteys stumbling blitzed and barefoot down the sidewalk in front of Beauty Bar, totally whacked-out and sweaty? Wait, how did he beat me down here? And Ron said he doesn’t drink…

Oh shit, it’s not Ron Jeremy—it’s SEAN TILLMANN!? What? With long straggly hair and a creepy-ass stache I did not recognize him. Sean was like, “Oh it’s you!” Turns out he had just performed.

I was baffled by the physical transformation that had happened in such a short span of time, but I digress. I suppose I changed a lot in that year too. Hell I was out there creepin’ too. Now back to the show in Cleveland…]

I can’t remember which Sean was DJ Yo Seana Bin Laden (can you help me remember? Contact me please).

Nor can I remember the third Sean band that rounded out the Seanarrific bill. But I do remember that they dropped leaving a big old hole in my concept.

I was blabbing to “Big Dan” Santovin from Speak In Tongues that the concert date was fast approaching and I was desperate to book another Sean to keep my gimmick intact.

Hell, I’d even settle for a Shawn or even a Shaun. Christ was I desperate.

Dan scratched his head and said he couldn’t think of any. But he did know a guy who’s last name was Carney. Well, ah, okay, I thought. This is not 100% the concept but I can make it work!

That’s how Churchbuilder got on the bill—they had a Carney in the ranks.

Check out Churchbuilder in this ancient compilation video

I gotta say I was not a huge fan of Churchbuilder’s very au courant 2002 Emo stylings (see Sean Tillmann quote above).

But the guitar player was super rockin’ and TALL. I mean, damn, this bro had twice as much height as the girl in the band who stood next to him onstage. When this guy got into it he looked like a lanky Sasquatch with glasses, just freaking out.

After the show, dude was also cocky/chatty in that gregarious rock ‘n roll way that’s somehow endearing to me.

“I’m Pat Carney,” he introduced himself. “I’m the Carney you were warned about.” Haha nice try but I’m the Carney who’s earned a warning.

“Did you enjoy the band?” Pat asked me. Eek. Awkward question.

“Mmmm,” I hedged. “Not really my thing.”

“Yeah, not my thing either—just helping them out,” Pat replied leaning in. “You should hear my other band. We fucking rock. We are seriously the best band you could ever hope to hear. Way better than Churchbuilder.”

Now this, at the time, struck me as slightly bogus and wholly wrong. Dismissing the band you just jammed with and then boasting about some other—possibly imaginary?—a band you also have? Like, in reserve or something?

It’s like the rock ‘n roll equivalent of a “My other car is a Ferrari” bumpersticker. Show me the motherfuckin’ goods.

“Maybe you can book us?” Pat Carney said as he pressed a hand-lettered CD-R into my palm. Um, yeah, okayyy, I thought. Fuckin’ weirdo.


Pat’s other band was the Black Keys and I’m a big ol’ dumbass. I never listened to the disc.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere but aw fuck it.

Anyhow, please enjoy the photos of Sean & Ian. I wish I had images of the other Seans, of Pat Carney, and the crowd which was pretty good for a frigid Friday night in Cleveburg.

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Ian Colbert & Sean Carnage are Sean & Ian at the Festival of Seans at the Grog Shop on Coventry in Cleveland, Ohio. All photos: Sarah Wido.

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Grog Shop Coventry 2002 Pat Carney Sean Tillmann Sean Na Na

Here’s the Free Times review of the evening’s proceedings:

Sean Carnage Ian Colbert Sean & Ian Churchbuilder Pat Carney Sean Na Na Har Mar Superstar Sean Tillman Grog Shop Cleveland 2002

Listen to + follow Sean & Ian on Spotify

You can still buy a CD of our album, 100,000 Years Of Sean & Ian

There are more weird-ass Grog Shop shows booked by yours truly to read about

Here’s SIX years of Speak In Tongues-scene photos, clippings & stories from my collection

Read more about the Cleveland scene in U.S. Rocker

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