city

CLEVELAND: ROCK AND ROLL CITY AND ITS RUST BELT REVIVAL
July 7, 2016 7:34 pm

Henri K. Rapp, Jeanette Sangston and Chayla Hope are constantly knee deep in the rock & roll scene of Cleveland, OH. I had the opportunity to talk to the artists about their relationship with this beautiful city and how its music scene has contributed to what they have now.

Who are you and what do you do?

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Henri K. Rapp – Photo by Evan Prunty

“I’m Henri K. W. Rapp, a Cleveland based Music Producer and Location Sound Mixer for TV/Film. I help run Bad Racket Recording Studio, where a lot of what I record is bands. We are fortunate enough to live in a city with some truly phenomenal artists, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to record some of them. At Bad Racket, we produce a music video series called ‘Live From Bad Racket.’ In the last year I have had the opportunity to work on a more diverse selection of projects than ever before; An 18-Piece orchestra in The Cleveland Art Museum, Strings for Cleveland Playhouse, Sound for TV Shows, as well as record with some great bands like Worship This!, Clementine, The Village Bicycle, Signals Midwest, and A Work Of Fiction.” -Henri K. Rapp

“My name is Jeanette Sangston. I am the Director of Sofar Sounds Cleveland. We curate secret, intimate shows once a month in unique spaces around the city, highlighting emerging talent.” -Jeanette Sangston

“I am a press operator at Gotta Groove Records and the lead singer of Seafair and Glitter Biscuit” -Chayla Hope

For the past 8 years that I’ve lived in Cleveland, Ohio, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions. First off, I came from Anchorage Alaska, which made me a snobby brat. I held my head high thinking nothing could top the plethora of fresh fish, tourist attractions and the small, hometown feel that the tiny city offered. I was vastly wrong. This city has grown on me like ivy on an antique brick house, pulling relentlessly at my heartstrings.

For those who’ve never been here, you probably know it from the vast majority of terrible jokes against it like ‘Mistake on the Lake,’ ‘Cuyahoga River catching on fire’ and the “At Least We’re Not Detroit” fad to name a few. Cleveland is a small city, vibrant within the community with an ever blossoming and thriving music, food, and start up scene.

Cleveland is about to host the Republican National Convention. I’m a little worried as I work downtown as most friends and family do. That being said, I do know that we had 1.3 million people crowding the downtown area at the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade, it being the biggest championship celebration in NBA history with little to no damage to the city. Are you listening, America?

What have you noticed lately in the music scene?

“One thing that’s stood out to me in recent times is up and coming labels from Cleveland, like Quality Time Records, Jurassic Pop Records, and Escapist Records who’ve been putting out some truly killer records. A lot of these releases have been cut to cassette tapes, or pressed to vinyl at Gotta Groove Records. They are a Cleveland based record plant that is one of the biggest in the country. We have a lot of friends who work over there. It’s also awesome to see cassette tapes make such a remarkable comeback as well.” -Rapp

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Chayla Hope at Jeanette Sangston’s Sofar Sounds – Photo By Ernie Joy

“Cleveland has always had a strong music scene, but it seems like there is definitely a new vibrancy. An injection of new energy. There seems to be a desire to shine the spotlight on our talent so that we can launch our artists to that next level…perhaps a national level. The realization that success for anyone in Cleveland means success for everyone; that the stronger our scene is, the stronger that spotlight is. There are so many people in Cleveland that value music…on every level…and work EXTREMELY hard to promote that value throughout the city. It’s really an awesome time to be involved in the Cleveland music scene. We have amazing talent and passion here.” -Sangston

“Its becoming more of a community. More people are supporting each other and collaborating. It’s a wonderful thing.” -Hope

On the west side, you can find a bustling downtown, the original Melt Bar and Grilled and Tremont, where you can dine at Michael Symons Lolita among other home grown eateries. Don’t worry, Trump likely won’t enter Symon’s, so if you’re looking for a safe haven during the convention you have Lola, Lolita and any of the B spot locations. But on the sprawling streets of the East Side harbor has Little Italy, a handful of art museums, University Circle at Case Western as well as some of the best hospitals (hopefully you won’t need those).

The historic Euclid Tavern is an old music venue, now home to the Happy Dog, where you can get Fruit Loops or almost any other unique topping for your hotdogs. Also if you’re looking to see national or even local acts in a small intimate atmosphere, you can hit up the Grog Shop where I’ve personally seen the likes of Saintseneca, Lucero and Nick 13. Further north in Collinwood you have the Beachland Ballroom/tavern. I recently saw Brian Fallon there and The Ohsees. The Beachland also has killer food. No kidding, you’ll cry while eating it.

How has the music scene changes effected your business and projects?

“This time of year is not only the busy season, but with an active music scene, all the film production and the RNC coming to town, I stay quite booked up at Bad Racket, doing location sound for TV shows, and mixing concerts at Mahall’s. We also have been shooting new ‘Live From Bad Racket’ videos faster then we can do the post production, so we are starting to have a nice cache of videos that we will be premiering soon.” -Rapp

“Well, there certainly seems to be no limit to the pool of talented emerging artists in Cleveland. Equally, there seems to be no limit to the amount of people willing to support and help out Sofar Sounds as well. I’m truly amazed at how generous people are when they are passionate about something. The music community is like no other. It binds strangers into family. As we grow our support, we’re able to amplify our voice throughout Cleveland and beyond.” -Sangston

What does Cleveland mean to you?

“Cleveland is a city of opportunity for people interested in creating something awesome. It’s a place where the cost of living is low, while still big enough of a city to be a cultural hub. This kind of environment is the perfect incubator for artists, musicians, writers, actors, or anyone who wants to pursue a creative career path. With more films and TV being shot here, and a surplus of great bands, it’s a great city to work in doing audio.” -Rapp

“Cleveland is home. I’ve lived here my entire life. It is the confluence of grit and culture; it is steeped in the past yet has the palpable energy of new growth. We can talk all day about all of the new construction, Public Square renovation, the revival of the Flats; but ultimately, the heartbeat of Cleveland is the people. And the energy, pride, and camaraderie was never more apparent than at the Cavs parade. THAT is Cleveland.’ -Sangston

“It’s home. Cleveland is growing exponentially. I’ve always found beauty in it, but now so many people are flocking here due to the Cavs, the food, the sights, and the booze (chuckles). Public square is helping immensely as well!” -Hope

Cleveland is a major believer in bringing new to live alongside the old, a lot of our old buildings are intact and are being reused by new up-and-coming businesses. As a transplant, coming from a relatively new state, I never had the luxury to witness much history, but it’s a wild dream imagining all those who have stepped through the same streets I currently walk through.

I work in downtown Cleveland at a market, but this place previously was a hardware store. With majestic lofts above the store, exposed ceilings and sprawling wood work, it’s a wonder this wasn’t built to be exactly what it is now: a trendy downtown market and grocery store.

What are some important aspects you think all outsiders should know before stepping into our world?

“I think people are surprised at generally how nice Clevelanders are. There may be some pre-conceived notions about us, but Cleveland is world class in every way. Food, sport, art, and music…we are the epitome of Rust Belt Revival. I would encourage any outsider to really dig in and sample the best the city has to offer. They surely won’t leave disappointed.” -Sangston

I believe Jeannette said it best. Cleveland has finished its rehab and it is completely clean now, including the brand new square which had its grand opening only about a week ago. We are a proud city, reeking of admiration for the skyline we see every time we drive up the Shoreway or fight our way through east side traffic to see the Key Tower, Terminal Tower, Justice center or the Guardians of Transportation and we know we are home.

THANKS, LIKE A LOCAL
February 18, 2016 5:54 pm

You like to travel, sure, but you ain’t no tourist. You’re here to see the real city, not these smarmy tourist traps featured in your airport brochure. You’re not afraid of the road less traveled. Any city can be paradise if you know what you’re looking for. You do know what you’re looking for, don’t you?

If not, don’t worry, because Like A Local has you covered. The popular travel app has up-to-date recommendations from residents of cities around the globe. And when I say cities, I mean every single city you could possibly want to visit. From Amsterdam all the way down to Zagreb (which, it turns out, is the capital of Croatia), the list is truly staggering. Of course they know the skinny on Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro–I mean who doesn’t, right? But what about Istanbul, Vancouver or Buenos Aires? Local recommendations out the wazoo. Boulder, CO; Phoenix, AZ; or Lafayette, LA? Make domestic travel your bitch. Even if you’re not actually traveling you can still find loads of activities in NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, and a handful of other North American cities. It’s all just a click away.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.

By now you’ve probably heard that New York City has a lot to offer, but God forbid you actually live here to find out for yourself. What does Like A Local recommend? Given my location (off the L train) and time of day (afternoon), they recommend Roberta’s Pizza, The City Reliquary, and Beacon’s Closet (to name a few), three highly regarded Brooklyn establishments. So, pretty legit.

Did I hear somebody ask about Boston? No? Maybe it was just me. Anyways, Like A Local recommends the Arnold Arboretum, the Harpoon Brewery and the Coolidge Corner Theatre (to name a few). All of these places I have been to during my days as a local Bostonian, and all of them are awesome. Good work, Like A Local.

Okay let’s try international. I’ve always wanted to go to Vienna (mostly for the sausages) but I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do once I got there. Well Like A Local has 130 recommendations grouped into categories like “Guide to Imperial Vienna,” “Most Popular Green Areas” and “Best Nightlife Spots.” Couldn’t be easier! Kind of makes me want to hop a flight there right now…

I won’t, but it’s nice to know that, if I did, I’d have cool things to do once I got there. Thanks, Like A Local (and also the hundreds of helpful foreigners providing insight into their respective cities), for optimizing my next vacation. Looking forward to it!

Years & Years Conquer NYC
September 21, 2015 11:54 am

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Years & Years made their return to New York for their 3rd sold out show at Terminal 5 and wowed the crowd. Since their first US show at Rough Trade in January, I’ve been hooked on Olly’s vocals and it’s undeniable that they offer much more than their record. I was so convinced that they were an incredible band that I even travelled to Boston to witness more of the magic they create on stage. One thing I love about this band is that they’re the most humble group of guys, looking genuinely shocked of their success and thank fans after every song. It truly impresses me how much love they get from their fans and they never fail to deliver a memorable performance every time.
Despite the fact that the view isn’t so great at Terminal 5 unless you get there early and secure a close spot to the stage, the band excited the crowd with their electro-pop tunes that made your body uncontrollably dance to the beat. Emry (keyboard) and Mikey (bass) looked calm and collected as always keeping straight faces while Olly showed some of his effortlessly rad dance moves. The set started off with “Foundation” which showcased Olly’s vibrant vocals hitting perfect high notes. Everyone had their phones out trying to capture this moment on video. Fans got a real treat when Olly jumped off stage and started mingling with the front row. A mass of people were pushing towards the front and reaching their hands out in hopes of having a chance to touch him. The band finished the night off with “King” while donning a paper crown, conquering every heart in the crowd. 

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Little May Keeps it Real
July 28, 2015 10:00 am

As I walk into an artsy Airbnb loft located in East Williamsburg, I was greeted with three friendly hip Australian girls. The place was decorated with all sorts of props from trippy rainbow paintings to slightly terrifying mannequins. Hannah and Annie had just come back from a bikram yoga class while Liz struck some chords on her acoustic guitar and hummed some melodic tunes. It was the first time I’ve had an opportunity to sit down with musicians in such an intimate setting without having to worry about shouting over the loud music at a bar, or having the pressure to finish the interview in time before their set. I was more than thrilled to have a chat with these girls and know more about them beyond their music.

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Seeing Little May play at Rough Trade during Northside Festival for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised with their performance. Their dreamy sounds and great harmony captivated the audience and had their eyes glued on the girls the whole time. “We always struggle putting down a specific genre, but I guess maybe we’re just…honest?” A lot of their songs seem to expose their emotional journey through life with genuine lyrics that recognize sentimentality. It seems as though their lyrics come organically, and they use it as a platform to express their feelings rather than forcefully getting some words out on paper. “When you’re going through something, it’s really hard to figure out what you’re feeling and sometimes thats a good thing because you can vent in that way, but it’s really great to reflect after certain situations have passed and get inspiration from those situations as well.”

During their set Hannah mentioned that one of the songs was about a boy that she liked who ended up kissing somebody else. “Liz and I made that song after we were in a single situation so we wrote a verse each. I guess it’s tongue-in-cheek now but we look back at it and we can joke about it. I think that happens when you’re going through relationships and coming out of them, somebody liking someone else,” Hannah says in a reminiscing tone. Perhaps Hannah also gets inspiration from the popular love guru popstar. “If I’m in a bad mood I like to listen to Taylor Swift, but I’m not embarrassed by it. I just save it for those special occasions.”

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These girls offer some words of wisdom to girls who go through the same relationship struggles – “Just stick it out I guess. Stick it out in life. The thing is, it always get’s better if you just give it a little bit of time. Things always seem worse than they are, so be brave.”

Not only did I pick up on their excellent lyrical content, but I realized that they also have a great sense of fashion. “I think the black pants are any musicians staple and I guess with traveling, being on the road for quite a while, you kind of have to be frugal of what you’re packing so you tend to wear similar things on stage. I think if we had more options that would be great, but we just try to wear something that we’re comfortable in.” Speaking of comfortable, Liz learned that lesson the hard way by experiencing a slight wardrobe malfunction on stage. “There was a show when my top was to the side of my bra. Hannah pointed it out on stage and she was like “Liz..” and I was like oh shit!”

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During their short stay in New York City, they were fortunate enough to have some time off to explore around the city. “Mark, Ken and I went to a Mets game yesterday which was super fun and bought a pretzel and Bud Light. I really wanted to get a hotdog but that’s kind of pushing it” Hannah said excitedly. Liz seemed to enjoy strolling around Brooklyn, doing some shopping. “I was amazed by everything in Williamsburg, on Driggs Avenue. I found some jewelry at a handmade jewelry shop, and also bought some old records.” While Hannah and Liz were focused on certain duties, Annie just wanted to wander around. “I kind of just wandered around and ate vegan food. I’m a vegetarian but out of the past two weeks we’ve been driving around and I’ve been eating a lot of fries and stuff. You know, just wandering around and drinking coffee and just hanging out really.”

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We go off on a tangent and start talking about a food, which is a topic everyone gets excited about. I ask if they’ve had the full New York experience by going out and eating the staple NYC food. “All the typical New York things like bagels and big pizza slices and hotdogs and stuff – You remind yourself, “I gotta eat bagels!” but you can’t eat too many bagels you know?” Annie mentions a Japanese restaurant called Zenkichi in Williamsburg. “I think we’re going there for dinner tonight, but I’m not sure where we’re going.” Hannah is feeling for Mexican food, but pouts because “it’s a group decision.” “There’s this Mexican place when we were staying in Brooklyn not long ago and it had the best quesadilla I’ve ever had, so I’m going to miss that. I wish that we had time to go back.”

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Palma Violets Rock Out at the Music Hall of Williamsburg
May 27, 2015 4:58 pm

With the release of their recent album “Danger in the Club,” Palma Violets have been traveling to bring their music to fans all over the globe. Having already played in the big apple back in March this year, they came back to the city to play a few more shows. I had the opportunity to chat with the drummer Will before their show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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They kicked off their visit with an acoustic session at Rough Trade, which was the second acoustic session they’ve ever done.

“First successful one we’ve put on I think. It takes a while to get into, especially going from live to the acoustic ones. It took us a few times to get it right.”

So what is it that brings them back to the city?

“Most of it is the history when you’re playing here. You know you’re in good hands and there’s such a good music scene as well.”

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While queueing up for the show, I witnessed MANY underaged kids who got their fake ID’s taken by security who couldn’t get in the venue. “All of our shows at the moment are 21 and over here. The younger kids are allowed to come to the gigs in the UK. We probably have young fans here in the US, but we rarely meet them.”

The first time I got to see them was at Baby’s All Right two months ago, and they gave a show that was as wild as ever! Knowing that they have a tight schedule packed with shows almost everyday, I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to live up to those expectations. I clearly underestimated them, because they were rockin’ out like it was in their blood! The level of energy in the room was unbelievable.

A group of guys created a mosh pit in the center of the crowd, tossing their beers everywhere, unable to contain their excitement. Palma Violets were running back and forth on stage, sweating like crazy as if they just finished a 10k. It was clear that everyone came to have the time of their lives. 

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“I think it’s honest when you go on stage. There’s a little bit of showmanship in it, in a way. You wanna just move about. But even if there’s one or a thousand people, you still get the same thing. It has to be on that certain level.”

Palma Violets’ tunes have a very authentic British-Punk Rock sound that sort of remind you of The Clash or The Sex Pistols. A lot of heavy guitar and beating drums. As Will sums it up in one word, their sound is “ETHEREAL”.

You’d think that they’d listen to a bunch of punk rock songs and do all the things a ‘rock-star’ does, but they weren’t afraid to put their alter-ego out in the open.

“We’re all big fans of ABBA. I think anyone who says they’re not is in denial. Also, Pete’s writing a children’s book and he’s writing the music for it at the moment.”

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These British lads don’t have much time to go out and explore when they have shows booked back to back, but when they do, they love doing all things tourist.

“We went to Beacons. We went near Steve’s house and he took us near a waterfall and we went swimming and it was brilliant! We also went to this place that was on ‘Diners Drive-Ins and Dives’. We felt like real tourists. We got chicken sandwich and cornbread. It was super American and intense.”