All posts by Mara Robinson

Mara Robinson is a music photographer based in the rock 'n' roll capital of the world. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine, I Rock Cleveland, the Cleveland Free Press, the Space Rock Gallery and more. She plays in bands and is available for hire/assignment/travel.

Mickey Avalon Rips Off Diane Coffee

What’s the old saying? “A good artist creates, a great artist steals.” Well if that’s true, Mickey Avalon has just made an attempt at greatness by copying the artwork of Diane Coffee‘s 2013 album My Friend Fish right down to the font. 

Diane Coffee’s own Shaun Fleming posted the side-by-side image on his social media with the comment: “Didn’t know the cover art for My Friend Fish was so iconic 😏. Is @mickey_avalon a fan? The artwork for his new album would certainly suggest so.” 

Mickey Avalon copies Diane Coffee artwork
Mickey Avalon’s new album copies artwork of Diane Coffee’s 2013 album My Friend Fish to a T

 

The photograph for Diane Coffee’s album was shot by Audim Culver, and artwork designed by Jared Bell with input from Fleming, his manager, and Melinda Danielson who also did the makeup. 

Meanwhile on Avalon’s Instagram, the post for his new album only credited photographer Mike Azria. Azria also had the image posted on his page (which he has since deleted). 

Diane Coffee fans took to Avalon’s IG, chastising him for stealing without giving credit. After about seven hours, Avalon finally responded, “I’m obviously a fan. And it was obviously an homage. And it was so obvious, that I obviously didn’t need to explain myself.” But fans weren’t satisfied. 

seabeekay@evndmngo wrote, “Since when do artists steal LITERALLY SOMEONES ENTIRE ALBUM COVER and try to play it off as their own? And then act like it isn’t a big deal/they were inspired by the original artist (while giving 0 credit to the artist they ripped off and only acknowledging the situation until called out 100x) 🤔”

We asked Fleming what he thinks of the situation and he said, “I think it’s pretty silly. It’s also offensive. I woke up to a tweet from a guy named Scott Cooper with a photo that said, ‘I feel old, but who’s Mickey Avalon? His new album art reminds me of something.'” Turns out Cooper had been online when the two albums popped up next to each other. 

“It was just straight plagiarism,” said Fleming. “The exact definition of homage is, ‘a special honor or respect shpown publicly.’ There was nothing honorable or respectful about this. If you are doing it as an homage to an artist, you need to at the very least credit said artist. Or ask me. For him to 100% just copy and paste my artwork, it’s the most disrespectful thing you can do. It’s the first thing they teach you in school is to cite your sources, don’t plagiarize. He should know, being in the business, that this is not cool.” 

“I was really taken aback by the response and all the love and support, not only from my fans but from Mickey Avalon fans. It was both a disturbing day and a really heartwarming day,” said Fleming.  

In response, Fleming has released a Diane Coffee song called Animal along with a photo of himself with hand-drawn tattoos pasted onto the album artwork for Avalon’s 2006 release, along with the comment: “Ok Mickey, two can play at that game! 
Been looking for a reason to show y’all this punk demo (Link in Bio). Album art inspired by Mickey Avalon. 😉” Animal will be released on all platforms by October 18. 

Diane Coffee responds by releasing a new song, Animal, using artwork from Avalon’s 2006 release

We were not able to reach Avalon directly for comment.

 

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The Struts at House of Blues Cleveland

It takes a lot of skill and commitment to deliver a high-energy glam rock show without seeming over the top, but The Struts pull it off so flawlessly it’s like part of their anatomy. From the way all four members lay into each and every endlessly catchy song, to the way frontman Luke Spiller’s perfectly tailored raiments swish and shift with him as he glides across the stage, The Struts are a machine so well-oiled you’d swear they were born to do exactly this. 

Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

 

We overheard another concertgoer having heated dialogue about it, echoing our own sentiments: “This guy! This guy!” he exclaimed, “He’s like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger rolled into one!” It’s true, and he can command an audience just as well. Not everyone can pull off a successful call and response session; or get a sweaty, sardine-packed crowd to jump and clap along. But last night’s fans were emboldened.
 
I used to talk in my articles about how Cleveland crowds are stoic and not easily impressed. Most bands are lucky to get a half-hearted golf clap after their songs. But not Struts fans. Oh no. These fans screamed, yelled, cheered, sang along at the tops of their lungs, raised their hands in the air, and gave back every ounce of energy the band put out to us.

Jed Elliott, Gethin Davies, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

 
The Struts took notice, too, declaring it their best Cleveland show to-date. Even new songs off their forthcoming album got the same warm welcome. “Is it good? Or is it shit?” Luke asked. I assure you, it’s every bit as good as anything off Everybody Wants. I certainly can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, and can’t wait to see them again.

Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

All photos by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson 

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Soundtrack for Your Record Store Day Playlist

What better way to celebrate Record Store Day than with some new music! Specifically, a song all about how awesome record stores are.
The Junior League is a project by New Orleans transplant Joe Adragna. His sixth release since 2006, the latest album Eventually is Now is a mix of true stories and inspired tales.  The lead track, Teenage Bigstar extols the virtues of record stores and the great things that happen there. It chronicles two true stories from Joe’s life. Aptly named, the song strikes of Teenage Fanclub meets Big Star. 

Verse one recalls the day Joe met Alex Chilton at a New Orleans record store called The Magic Bus. Joe was a Big Star fan and quietly mentioned it to Chilton, not wanting to bother him. Chilton casually waved it off and instead grabbed the records from under Joe’s arm to see what he was buying. Chilton held up Joe’s copy of Beach Boys Live in London and started talking about how great they were, how he toured with them in the ’60s, and what a great drummer Dennis Wilson was. Chilton took out the record, handed it to the clerk, asked them to play Barbara Ann, and started playing air drums along to the beat. 

Verse two is inspired by the night Joe went to see The Minus 5 and wound up taking Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and John Ramberg to that same record store. They talked about The Beatles and The Monkees, and after the show Joe vowed he’d make a record if it was the last thing he ever did musically. Lucky for us, he’s still going strong. Check out the rest of Eventually is Now on Bandcamp or Spotify. 

 

Jr League band eventually is now

 

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Project Mayhem Rocks Again

Boardman, Ohio loves the arts and gives students amazing opportunities to learn and perform music. Case in point, Boardman High School’s rock orchestra Project Mayhem. Backed by electric and acoustic violins, cellos, bass, drums and more, the band performs rock hits from yesterday and today. Featured artists include Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Kansas, Styx, Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Tom Petty and Pat Benatar. The orchestra keeps gaining in popularity and sold out the 1,600-seat Boardman Performing Arts Center. I photographed the show for the second year, and look forward to doing so again next year. Enjoy!

Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
Project Mayhem 2018 by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photogrpher Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
photo by Mara Robinson
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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

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