Friday night the punk rockers took over Rockstar in Cleveland. The small, and I mean small, venue that which lies on top of Peabody’s, hosted an intimate night of punk rock goodness with help from The Swingin’ Utters and The Menzingers as well as a couple of local acts including The Facials. Regardless of size fans of all of the bands filled up the joint and were treated to an evening of fast, fun, and furious music.
Openers SmyD (oh, NOW I get it…) were local and sounded just like Against Me!. It was not a bad thing at all until I noticed that the lead singer had matching…Against Me! tattoos on his shoulder blades. Still not a terrible thing, but enough to cause a momentary distraction to more than one onlooker. Trying ever so hard to ignore the dual permanent tributes myself, I was able to enjoy their set even if there was a little too much talk and not so much rock going on from the lead singer. Still, I would check them out again. I took this opportunity to enjoy a nice tall refreshing PBR with my friends.
The Facials, another local act and good friend to BHP, hit up the stage next minus one. Even though one of the band members could not make it to the show the band played on and did not sound that bad even if the back-up guitarist had three practices to learn all the bass lines. Kudos to the vest wearing bandanna sporting musician for switching up duties. Fans crept around the corner stage throughout the set and enjoyed their performance. I took this opportunity to enjoy another nice cold tall refreshing PBR with my friends. Do you see a trend here? Well that was the extent of it, after all I did have to drive home. I am responsible.
One of my favorite punk rock bands that I discovered this year, The Menzingers, finally were able to play a show for me. After all the was the reason they came to Cleveland, for me (not really). You see, earlier this year the band was supposed to play a show in Covington, KY but one of the band members succumbed to a nasty stomach virus and they had to make the difficult decision of canceling the show. I was highly bummed out that I was unable to see them live but understood. This time though all of the band members were in house at Rockstar and took to the stage for a very high energy and fun set.
Jumping around and having a good ol’ time the band played through a bunch of familiar songs including “I Was Born”, “Rivalries” (one of my faves), and “No We Didn’t” off their latest release Chamberlain Waits. Their live stuff was move enjoyable to me than their studio material. The boys just were so entertaining and the crowd was so into them screaming along to every song. Music, friends, smiles, and singing – this is what a punk rock show is all about.
I was thrilled to finally be up at the front of the stage watching this amazing band do their thing. If that was not good enough, the band chatted with me throughout the night about everything from the Kentucky incident to the local punk house the Soggy Dog. Greg and Tom were cool as hell and I can not wait till I run into them again. I know, I sound like a freaking fanboy right now but in all honesty it is nice to meet a band that is happy to be in their surroundings and has no problem climbing the stripper pole with you. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out Rockstar next time you are in Cleveland. Just don’t get too rowdy or else a mustache-clad bouncer might yell “settle down” at you and walk away… very effective I might mention.
Aside from that calamity there was in fact another performance by punk rock legends the Swingin’ Utters. Even though I have been a fan of the Utters since I was a kid this was the first time I had ever seen them live and I could not be happier. A little older and a lot wiser, the band took to the stage and put forth a killer set with lead singer Johnny Bonnel looking like he was feeling real good. I say this not just because we were in a bar but also because in the middle of the set he screamed “piss break” and stumbled off the stage into the crowd and made a b-line for the men’s room. It was hilarious.
Breaking into tracks like “Five Lessons”, “Windspitting Punk”, and one of my favorites “The Next In Live” the 20+ year old band sounded much better than I was anticipating. It was amusing to see Spike Slawson up on stage too as I mostly know him for his cover act Me First and the GImme GImmes. I should comment too that he looked like she shed some pounds since the last time I saw him. Sporting thick rimmed glasses and what looked like an army issued jacket Spike looked calm and reserved throughout the set. He was perhaps the only one who maintained composure of some sort as the rest of the band, and the crowd for that matter, jumped and thrashed about while flinging beers and fists in the air. Oh yes, it was a punk rock show for sure.
There was no encore for the night by the Utters. They finished their set and exited the stage to an adoring crowd of longtime hardcore fans. That was about the time I exited the Rockstar to get some air. Looking around everyone had that look of satisfaction on their faces, you know, the one where you just witnessed something really really good. Not sure when the Utters will make a trip back to Cleveland but I did get a kick out of a Tweet one of the band members posted later in the evening:
I don’t really understand why people make fun of Cleveland. I think Cleveland is kinda awesome. Romantic, even.
Cleveland is kinda awesome. Romantic? Perhaps. Being with great friends and some amazing bands however was just perfect and I would not have wanted to spend my Friday night any other way.