Friday, July 21, 2006

My day-trip to Cleveland.

I didn't get enough of Slim Cessna's Auto Club on Saturday, so I put the word out to find like-minded folk to accompany me to the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. Cleveland is only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Pittsburgh, and it didn't take much reflection for me to realize that seeing the best live act in the US merited that minimal jaunt. (By the way: when I use the superlative you have just read, people assume I am employing hyperbole or that I am merely tossing about descriptors off-handedly... I assure you that I am not. I do realize that personal tastes differ... but I have seen George Clinton's P-Funk, Pavement, Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion, The Beastie Boys, Jesus Lizard, Nashville Pussy, The Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, The Shins, etc... all great shows- but Slim and the boys top them all) An old friend took me up on the offer of a ride, and we set out. Our anticipation and the conversation it stimulated made the trip pass quickly.

We drove into "Ohio City" and visited the Great Lakes brewery for dinner. I enjoy their beer, but I recommend that you pass on their brew-pub experience unless you want to pay too much for small portions of merely decent food. I spent $6 for about four ounces of cheese soup. The atmosphere was fairly typical of brewery storefronts. The experience wasn't bad, but it didn't meet my expectations. The area itself seems to be up-and-coming. There are other restaurants nearby that I have been told are much superior to Great Lakes. We also found time to poke around a used bookstore that was officially closed, but open to us because the owner had gotten a large shipment in that needed to be processed. I didn't catch the name of the shop, but it is near the Market House. It is worth stopping in to sift through the mountains of reasonably-priced treasures. I bought a Josef Skvorecky paperback, and we set off for Collingwood on the East Side.

Driving through Cleveland makes me appreciate both its own urbanity, and alternatively, the beauty of Pittsburgh. I can't get used to the grid-system and flat terrain of many other cities. But Cleveland certainly has its share of promising and eclectic neighborhoods, and I wouldn't be averse to alloting more of my time to exploring it deeply. There is at least enough to see to occupy a weekend trip.

Beachland Ballroom is more intimate than its name would suggest. It doesn't look like a place that could comfortably hold 300 people, but I have never been a great judge of capacity. Astoundingly, only about 50 of Cleveland's finest attended the show. I'll never understand how Slim can end up playing to that small of an audience. He has said that Cleveland has always been a tough draw, but c'mon good people... awaken and rise! They drew over 300 in Ottawa on Wednesday... and that ain't exactly Slim's neighborhood. Even with the disappointing turnout, the band put in another stellar, energy-filled and transcendant performance. Despite a lack of sleep, a tour van that is on its last legs, and being in the midst of a tour that is 2/3rds of a nation away from most of the band members' homes... they gave everything they had to make sure that their words and music will be carried through the minds and souls of the lucky audience. Until they come again.



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