Sideshow by the Lakeshore: Luna’s Triumphant Return to Cleveland

Until the Grog booked Luna for last night’s show — their first time back to Cleveland in about 12 years — I honestly hadn’t listened to their records since 2009. They were lost in the CD-selling purges of my thirties. But conveniently, Spotify has a Best of Luna playlist to refresh my memory. Side note — they’re playlists now, not albums. That’s not to say they have any record I dislike; it’s just they get filed away in the drawer of really catchy indie rock songs.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

Music fans like myself compare and contrast bands against their peers. My favorite game to play as a contrarian is to state the greater band is the one with the better catalog. Yo La Tengo are a better band than My Bloody Valentine. Is Loveless a great album? Sure, why not. But Yo La Tengo have plain old done more and therefore reached greater heights, so they’re the better band. People who worship at the altar of meteoric bands miss true greatness.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson 
Dean Wareham of Luna by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

This is the point where writing about Luna gets tricky. They are both timeless and of a very specific time. Who exactly are their peers? The depth of music knowledge on stage last night went clear back to the Platters or Duane Eddy or my beloved Beach Boys. I like record collector rock. Dean Wareham seems like the kind of guy who has walls and walls full of obscure but totally great vinyl albums. But comparing Luna to either their own heroes or part of a revival is short sighted. It’s not revivalist; it’s syntheist.  

Luna by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

Conversely, trying to place Luna alongside their contemporaries in the 1990s “alt-rock” doesn’t quite line up either. Pavement, Superchunk, Sonic Youth got up at the same time on the same stages, but everyone sounds more like each other than Luna sounds like anyone — a loser contradiction their lyrics often hint at. Luna aimed for a different target and hit it. Their success was on their own terms.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson
Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson 

So what happened on stage? For one, the guitars sounded amazing. I’m not a gearhead, but a quick look at the stuff wasn’t complicated, but rather the stack of a band who dialed in their sound. The guitars sounded rich and full, with beautiful overtones and carefully sculpted reverb. The shimmering sound I heard probably sounds identical in every room they play. The economy of sound extended into the playing. The solos were similar to their records, and they were written right the first time, so a brief guitar solo (and one bass solo) kept the songs moving. For a band that prides themselves on the consistent dynamics of the rhythm section, the songs moved great.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson
Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson
Luna band by Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

When I was bullshitting online the day of the show, my friend Pete posted he found the first grey hairs in his beard, even though he’s been balding for years. I saw him later that night, and at age 32, he was one of the youngest people in the room. Luna are not minting new fans, and their setlist played liked it. Hits like Pup Tent, Chinatown, Bewitched. We joked about waiting around for the Velvet Underground cover, but it never came, although they did throw in a Cure cover. Their catalog is enshrined in the memories of their fans, and their fans know their influences well enough that all they had to do was run through the hits, have fun doing it, and everyone walked away happy. BTW Pete’s single.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

Do you know the difference between classic rock and oldies? I do, and I bet you do too. Now, if you happen to be a Luna fan, ask yourself where do they fit in? Not do they sound like The Champs vs The Eagles, but are Luna part of a culture that has endured against the ebb and flow of fashion, or are they part of an emerging industry of keeping musicians employed, on the road and somewhat happy? Luna fans have been waiting a decade to see this show, a reasonable amount of time for side projects and time off, and not subject to the diminishing returns of the Pixies reunion. They walked off the stage happy, and their fans felt the same.

Luna band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Luna by Mara Robinson

See more photos here

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee, 5 Albums that Changed My Life

Asking anyone to name five life-changing albums is no small feat, but Shaun Fleming, songwriter and frontman for Psychedelic Motown band Diane Coffee, handles it like he handles everything else: with style and grace.  So here’s his list, in no particular order, along with some pictures we made last night before his show at Cleveland’s own Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. 

“I don’t know if these are going to by my favorite albums of all time,” says Shaun. “But they will be ones that changed my life.” 

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Donovan, The Hurdy Gurdy Man album artwork
“I was in high school. I wasn’t really into music quite yet. I was just getting into theater and improv comedy, which helped me kind of open up. I was also a big skateboarder and I heard a song in a skate video that was super weird — it was very Donovan — it had a crazy sax solo. I remember, this was right when Limewire and Napster came about, but I didn’t have that because I thought it would ruin my computer. So I had to find the track name and go to Tower Records and ask them about it and they had to look it up. So I got this record, and at this point I only knew stuff that was on the radio. I’d never really heard anything from the ’60s and ’70s or anything like that. It was really bizarre, really new and I just fell in love. I got really obsessed with Donovan and bought every single record I could. I started wearing kimonos around, drinking a lot of tea; I mean, I was that kid in high school. I told my Dad about it and he was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, Donovan. You know, I played with Donovan a couple times.’ So I think that record pushed me into learning about music and discovering what was actually out there.”

4. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album artwork
“I remember the first Pink Floyd song I ever heard was Comfortably Numb. A friend put it on a compilation mix tape, and I was like ‘What is this?! What is this beautiful piece of music I’m hearing?!’ I remember people with Pink Floyd T-shirts walking around high school, so I knew the name before I knew the music, but didn’t really understand what kind of music that was. So I went to Tower Records and picked up my first Floyd album. I saw that (Dark Side) cover and I’d seen people wearing T-shirts of that triangle artwork, so just grabbed that one. Then I put it on it was just— and still, those last few songs— There’s only a couple albums where I actually always cry, and that one still brings me to tears, especially when I hear the whole thing front to back. I put together a cover band in high school, and all we did was Floyd and Beatles almost exclusively. Like, we did all of Dark Side of the Moon, we did all of The Wall front to back, we just were obsessed. That was my first band. So maybe that record started me down the path of being a stage musician.”

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Mara Robinson

3. The Beatles: Abbey Road
The-Beatles-Abbey-Road-Album-Cover
“I was touring with Foxygen and it was our first time going to the UK. I was reading a Beatles book at the time and I remember as soon as we started driving around the UK, it felt so different than anything else I’d really seen. I started listening to Abbey Road and I swear to God I listened to nothing but that record on repeat the entire time I was there. I don’t know if it changed my life. There are very few things that really changed my life. But that one holds a special place. All those memories. First time I was ever touring, and it’s England, and when you do that, when you make that sort of leap, it was like, ‘I made it. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll musician now, really doing it.’ And that’s another one of those records that makes me tear up every single time.”

2. Young MC: Stone Cold Rhymin
Stone Cold Rhymin Young MC album cover
“That was the first CD I ever bought with my own money. I was, I think, eight years old and my Dad took me to the record shop. I think I just grabbed the first thing that looked like something I might like. Even though there’s very little about that album that’s cool except for Bust a Move. I probably liked Bust a Move and I got the record because of that. It was the first record I ever bought, and I still put that record on all the time. I can rhyme every single verse on every single track. That changed my life just because it was the very first. I started buying CDs after that. That’s a good one. That’ll live forever. Bust a Move will never die. (laughing) Just the rest of the tracks will.”

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

1. Third Eye Blind: Third Eye Blind
Third_eye_blind_self_titled
“I really liked that record. It was incredibly melodic. I think when I was just starting to get into music, they were my favorite band at the time because they were what was playing on the radio. That’s all I would listen to was pop radio and stuff like that. I remember when I first started getting into music, when I first got a guitar from my Dad and started learning how to play, that was the first record I broke down and started listening to with the ears of a musician. I started trying to learn everything and figure out ‘How do they get those kinds of sounds?’ This was even before I started recording, and I started to understand how a record is pieced together. ‘Why does this sound the way it does?’ Noticing all of those little details. Plus that record is just amazing. It’s such a good album. I remember spending a lot of time learning how to play Jumper on acoustic guitar. I was that guy at parties. I’d bring my acoustic guitar. There’s a fire pit, and maybe some people have some beers that they took from their Dad, and I’m playing Jumper on guitar. (laughing) I was the epitome of a ’90s high school movie, and that record helped.”

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee photos by Mara Robinson

Shaun is currently on tour in support of his new Peel EP. There are a lot of good bands, but not a lot of performers. I’m glad I found Shaun, who satisfies both. 

Click here for more photos of Shaun Fleming and his Diane Coffee bandmates

Diane Coffee Talks New Peel EP, Upcoming Cleveland Show

While Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee began writing songs for his upcoming third full-length, the first two he wrote sounded maybe too much like the last album, Everybody’s a Good Dog. Also, the direction for the album changed, and these two songs no longer fit with the new concept. Not wanting the songs to just fade away, he decided to release them. Enter the new PEEL EP, a one-two punch of funk, soul, pop goodness he calls Psychedelic Motown. 

The first song, Poor Man Dan, is based on a true story from Shaun’s childhood. An older kid in their Agoura Hills, CA neighborhood would tell the younger kids stories about the area that became like urban legends of the area. 

“We were five or six. He was probably 13. He was just screwing with little kids. He was kind of a bad egg, but he told good stories,” Shaun says. 

“One of them was about a guy who lived a block from us,” continues Shaun. The story went that his daughter died and he buried her in the front yard. It’s silly when you actually explain it. Then he would kill kids off the block that would come to his house — like, you could never go Trick or Treating at his house because he’d kill you and he’d bury you in his yard so his daughter would have friends to play with.” 

“You know what’s funny too, is every time I drive past that house — if I’m in town sometimes I like to drive past my childhood house — I see that house and I still kind of get weird feelings. Even though I know that it was just some guy who then, for some reason, didn’t have any kids Trick or Treating at his house, but it still weirds me out.”

Song two, Get By, is Shaun’s example of three people who bury their pain and put on a smile through hard times. It’s a warning that we should accept rather than stigmatize or feel shame about the hardships of ourselves or others. 

“This is just three examples of people dealing with things, says Shaun. It’s the out-of-work actor, and the person who’s going through mental problems, and the way we can just kind of hide that behind a half-smile and deal with it. Maybe there’s shame about talking about certain issues that you’re going through, even though most people are going through it.” 

“We should be more accepting, and not stigmatize people going through certain things, he continues. We should be more open to talking and helping.” 

Shaun feels like he might be done with songwriting for the upcoming third LP, but wants to get a producer for the first time, take the demos in, and work the songs out in the studio. 

Diane Coffee plays the Beachland Sunday, November 5, where he and the band will play old songs as well as new, including songs from the upcoming album. 

“I’m excited to go back to that vintage store,” says Shaun of the Beachland. “And the food is really good. Most times a venue is a venue is a venue. But it’s all the little things that come along with it. Like if you have a sound guy who’s always really fun, or you have a vintage shop connected, or if they serve really good food. It’s these little things you love about certain places. We always get really good crowds at the Beachland, and at the end of the day that’s the most fun. But the first thing I think about when I think about the Beachland is the really good food and the vintage clothing shop. 

See more photos of Shaun and his band here

 

Hear Los Colognes new full length The Wave

Taking a page from ’70s Pink Floyd mixed with your favorite ’80s pop music summer playlist, Los Colognes’ new full length The Wave delivers soothing audio soundscapes.

Listen to the entire full length here, complete with chill-inducing graphics.

Los Colognes is currently on tour with Blues Traveler:
10/20 – St Petersburg, FL – Jannus Live
10/21 – Ft Lauderdale, FL – Revolution Live
10/24 – Mobile, AL – The Steeple
10/26 – Austin, TX – Emo’s
10/27 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
10/28 – Houston, TX – House of Blues
10/30 – Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom
11/1 – Minneapolis, MN – The Pantages
11/2 – LaCrosse, WI – The Court Above Main (Los Colognes Only)
11/3 – Indianapolis, IN – Vogue
11/4 – St Louis, MO – Del Mar Hall
11/5 – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theatre
11/7 – Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
11/8 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
11/10 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
11/11 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
11/12 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market
11/14 – San Francisco, CA – The Filmore
11/15 – San Francisco, CA – The Filmore
11/17 – Los Angeles, CA – Belasco
11/18 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
11/19 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues 

3 of 4 Lucksmiths Reunite on New Last Leaves Album

As we approach the end of fall and brace ourselves for another brutal snowbelt winter, watching trees lose their clothes a little more each day, listening to a band called Last Leaves just seems right. I put it on and am immediately transported to warmer, sunnier days. It may not be T-shirt weather anymore, but on my radio it’s close enough. 

As someone with every Lucksmiths album shuffling daily on my iPod, continuously pumping perfect pop song after perfect pop song through humble speakers, I was stoked when Last Leaves formed to reunite guitarists Marty Donald and Louis Richter with bassist Mark Monnone. Drummer Noah Symons (Great Earthquake) completes the quartet. Their debut album Other Towns Than Ours picks up right where the Lucksmiths left off. 

LAST LEAVES Other Towns Than Ours, ex-Lucksmiths

From the first moment of the first song, our boys are back, painting stories with warm witty words and gentle instruments like only they can. It all sounds so familiar. Their particular genius is alive and well throughout the entire release. 

With the third song, The Nights You Drove Me Home, I’m back in high school on Sunday nights, in the passenger seat of my first love’s orange Chevy Vega. For the first time in years, I’m remembering those drives from one end of town to the other, recalling his jokes and how all we used to do was laugh. 

Most songs on the album are looking back, many on past loves, as the band’s characteristic harmonies on track six ask, “The world we had/where did it go?” This may as well be a question for nearly every song on the album. 

Songwriter Marty Donald spoke with us about this collection of songs, some of which were written while the Lucksmiths were still together, and others after Last Leaves formed. 

“I didn’t stop writing songs when The Lucksmiths finished up,” he explains. “I’ve been doing it too long to even consider that, I guess. But I wanted to find new things to explore with my writing, without that change feeling forced. I’ve always been a fairly painstaking writer anyway, so I knew that would take a while. I also moved to the hills outside Melbourne around this time; a sense of place has always been fairly central to my writing, and it took a while for the change of scenery to work its way into my songs. Again, though, I wanted this to happen naturally rather than be contrived at all.” 
 
“When it came time to do something with the songs I had, I didn’t have to give too much thought to working with Mark and Louis again,” Marty continues. “The sort of friendship and musical understanding we’d developed over the years shouldn’t be given away lightly! But I also thought it would be good for us to introduce something different into the equation. Noah was a friend I’d made in the hills, whose drumming is incredible and completely distinctive; from the first rehearsal we all had together, everything clicked beautifully.” 
 

“When we first started working together on the songs I had, though, some worked and some didn’t,” Marty continues. “It took us a while to understand ourselves, I guess — for some sort of direction to suggest itself. Once it did — after we’d played a few shows — I began to find the writing process much easier. Having a better idea of how the songs would end up sounding was definitely helpful! A few of my favorite songs from the record — The World We Had and Third Thoughts for example — are from this slightly more recent period.”

Other Towns Than Ours drops Friday, October 20 via Lost and Lonesome (Australia) and Matinée Recordings (USA). Available for preorder now. 

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