Category Archives: Features

Photos: Howard Jones Plays Cleveland

New wave/synthpop musician Howard Jones is on a North American tour and made a stop in Cleveland last night at the Music Box Supper Club.

The English artist is known for 15 top-40 hits in the 80s and early 90s, including No One is to Blame, Everlasting Love, New Song, What is Love, Like to Get to Know You Well, and Life in One Day.

Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson

Whereas past tours have featured simply Jones and a piano, this tour adds the flavor of a second synth player and an electronic drummer for a fuller, more rocking sound closer to the way we hear them on his albums.

Jones is a fantastic performer, and he peppered his set with just the right amount of between-song storytelling. He introduced Life in One Day as a song that is full of lies. “The old man said to me don’t always take your life so seriously? That’s a lie, my father never said that. The record company asked for another hit so I made this up,” Jones admitted. “No. Take your life seriously, especially in this day and age.” Although he agreed that learning to “play the flute and dance and sing your song” is pretty good advice, especially given the flute stylings of Ron Burgundy.

A couple times he’d interrupt a song to tell a quick story, like when he stopped New Song‘s chorus to talk about how much the critics hated his music back in the day, but how the public loved it.

For an encore he played Things Can Only Get Better, bringing a fantastic evening to a close. He described it as a mantra for when life isn’t going so well. But after such a fun and inspiring show, things were just about as good as they can get.

Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson

Interview: Melora Creager of Rasputina

Since the mid-90s, Melora Creager has been perfecting and evolving her avant-garde cello rock group Rasputina. Weaving quirky historical tales into classical influences, Rasputina has a sound all of its own. The trio comes to Cleveland August 20 to the Music Box Supper Club. Frontwoman Melora Creager took some time out before embarking on her tour in support of Rasputina’s latest album, Unknown, to speak with Blown Speakers writer, Judie Vegh. Creager discusses her secret retirement, harrowing identity theft incident, brain cleanse, and her guilty music pleasures.

You went into a self-proclaimed “secret retirement”. Why did you do this?

M: I was tired of touring the same clubs for a lot of years. I was frustrated that I hadn’t moved farther in my career. And maybe it was a mid-life crisis too because of my age, but by getting away from it and not being involved in public life at all, just to put things into perspective. I was fortunate to do it. I have a lot more gratitude that I did it.

Your new album Unknown is based on the identity theft incident that happened to you recently. How are you doing now and what was the outcome? 

M: It was really damaging to me psychologically, and it made me very paranoid. My imagination, which is really strong, took over and thought of the worst. A lot of my decisions were based on fear which is never good. At the same time, there were a lot of positive, spiritual transformations. I got off the Internet 100% for a while. It improved my brain by the end. When I found out it was a woman I knew, and by knowing what had happened, I was able to get better.

When you say it improved your brain, how so? 

M: There was a lot of improvement made by getting off the Internet because if someone as creative and quirky as me was regurgitating everything I saw and read on the Internet…by getting off the Internet I got my own brain back. All this real estate in my head. I used to write songs on paper just from my own thoughts as opposed to ‘Google it! Google it! Google it!’, I got done with that regurgitation.

The album is only being sold as a CD from your site, and may be coming out on vinyl too? 

M: If I ever get the money together! Ha ha ha!

So it’ll never be released on digital platforms such as iTunes or Spotify. What are your feelings on these digital platforms that are so mainstream today?

M: It’s really gotten down to everyone gives their music away. Those things we listen to, Pandora and Spotify… They just don’t pay. Independent musicians used to be able to make a living but it’s almost impossible. There’s no other art business where your stuff is just taken and given away. I never signed up for Spotify or YouTube to have channels in my name. I never sold my stuff to that. And artistically, I remember what it meant to be young and be excited when something came out. The anticipation of waiting for something that you’re excited about. We’ve lost that. Everything is immediate gratification. I think appreciation of music lasts that long too. You’re over it really fast.

Magnetic Strip is offered as a digital download. Why the  decision to release this only as digital release, and Unknown only as a CD? 

M: I would like to not have anything digital. But I couldn’t make a living. I do have to offer and choose to offer digital. So with the album [Unknown], it’s conceptual. It’s like a prank because it gives everyone a hard time like the press who say “I need a download!” I’m like there just isn’t one. You have to wait two weeks in the mail. I’m not dying for press. I’m not dying for sales. I just want people who like it to hear the music.

The album artwork for Unknown came from one of your daughter’s dreams. How do your daughters influence your art? 

M: A big part of my mid-life crisis was feeling like I’m not the artist I want to be. I’m not at the place I want to be as an artist because I’ve done such a good job as a mom. Why would a stranger value my personal life? It’s always been important to keep the child alive in me. I love children besides my own, and just that sense of free imagination has been an influence on me.

How does it feel being able to play with Carpella Parvo again? How did you two reconnect? Also, with Luis Mojica, what does be bring to Rasputina? 

M: Luis is really great because he got me back into performing. He knows all my music just from playing it on piano for fun. In performing with him, I even stood up and sang without my cello. I don’t feel like I have to carry everything like a robotic soldier with my cello and my voice. There’s a lot more freedom.  With Carpella, of course, we met again on the Internet. I’m no different. She’s a lovely woman who went through rough times with carpal tunnel from cello playing. A lot of that problem is psychological, and it took her a long time to get back into intense cello playing. The second she did it, she was back.

You’ll be playing at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland on August 20, while you’re performing, people will be eating. How does that make you feel? 

M: That is difficult for performance. It’s distracting anytime there are waiters and there is clanking of dishes. I just saw the movie “Love and Mercy” about Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys. There’s a scene where he’s losing his mind and the sounds of the forks and the glasses and the chewing and he’s like “AAAAHHHHHH!”. It made him just lose it. So that might be me!

Your opening act is Eliza Rickman. What makes her unique that she can open for you and complement your music? 

M: Most of our tour is with Daniel Knox of Chicago. He can’t make our Midwest run, so I asked him who he would recommend who has a simple set up and is very good. He immediately came back to me with Eliza. When I looked at her work, I liked it very, very much and thought it was totally compatible.

What are your guilty music pleasures? 

M: Who did “Gotta keep ’em separated”? The Offspring! [laughing] That’s so old. That’s really, really old. I listen to a lot of classic rock radio. Carpella has commented that I am able to sing every single song that comes on the radio. I’m a human jukebox.

Melora and her group of merry string slingers play the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland on Thursday, August 20. Tickets are $18 advance and $20 day of show. Doors at 6:00 p.m. for dinner, and the show starts promptly at 8:00 with Eliza Rickman supporting. 

Interview: Matt Greenfield of Destroy Cleveland Documentary

While outsiders of Cleveland think of the city as the Mistake on the Lake, or bring up reminders of the fifty year sports championship drought, those who are native to Cleveland possess a fervent pride in promoting the city for all the great things it has brought to the table over the years:  Superman, Harvey Pekar, and Rock ‘n Roll. For Matthew Greenfield, the hardcore punk scene that established itself in the 1980s, and thrived throughout the 1990s and into the present plays a just as significant role in shaping the city’s history and music history. On Friday, July 24, he will premiere his full-length documentary, Destroy Cleveland to the public at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium.

Since he was 16, the Youngstown born-and-bred filmmaker started going to shows in Cleveland, some at the now shuttered Speaks in Tongues on the city’s west side which hosted many of the underground hardcore shows featured in the documentary. “I’ve always been drawn towards aggressive, fast-paced, angry music. I started going to Cleveland hardcore shows when I was 16. I’m 32 now. The first bands I saw were 9 Shocks Terror and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers. I was strictly a fan,” said Greenfield.

Although Greenfield moved onto the warmer pastures of Austin, Texas as a freelance journalist, his interest in Cleveland and the Rust Belt music scene has not waned.  A self-proclaimed huge supporter of Ohio, but from afar, his website, Rust Belt Hammer documents music from the region from hardcore, to punk rock and even, as Greenfield calls it, “weird rap from the 90s.” It was from this general interest in compiling interviews and artifacts that sparked the idea to create his first documentary. “I always liked documentaries. I was just digging for facts about Cleveland hardcore, and I figured someone should do a documentary on it,” Greenfield said. “I like to document things for my own amusement. I collect fliers, stickers, records. That definitely helps when making a documentary, so it’s nice to put it all on film.”

When it came time to start filming, Greenfield knew who to reach out to. “I have some friends from Kent, Ohio, and they had been making films already, so I proposed the idea. By that point, I had contacted some people from the scene and they liked the idea, they wanted to help out, so we sort of just went from there,” said Greenfield. With the team now consisting of Jorge Matthew Delarosa (of The Slow Mutants production company), and Colby Grimes, Greenfield set out filming Destroy Cleveland. Throughout production, Greenfield found resounding themes in the Cleveland hardcore scene that made it unique compared to other cities like Austin. “Austin is a very transient city. People aren’t necessarily from Austin, and it’s hard to pinpoint what the scene is about. The modern hardcore scene in Austin is a lot different. People are laid back and have a lot less frustration,” said Greenfield. “In Cleveland, it has this cloud over the top of it, and you can hear it in the music. People were definitely frustrated and looking for something cathartic.”

Scene Still from Destroy Cleveland

Greenfield goes on to say, “I didn’t go to a lot of shows in the 90s, but it was definitely a violent era. The music sounds violent, it wasn’t just the crowd. It was a soundtrack of violence. Whether you’re fighting to that music or fighting an inner battle, Cleveland hardcore has a unique sound; it’s darker, more metallic.” While bands like Integrity were deeply influenced by a metal influence in their art and music and have been touted as the inventors of metallic hardcore, but many bands were influenced by the industrial decay and economic struggle of the city. “I hear bands from Cleveland and whether it’s 9 Shocks Terror or Integrity, I hear the sound of industrial collapse. It makes me think of black and gray. That’s how it sounds if it could be described by colors. A lot of these guys worked in factories and played in bands. It’s a very working class, blue collar and hard-working. These things come out of the music. It’s not about flashiness or politics, Ronald Reagan, Batman or George Bush. It was more personal and about internal struggle; yourself and your surroundings.

Digging through the archives of the hardcore scene brought about some interesting, long-forgotten stories. One in particular Greenfield mentions occurred at Speak in Tongues. Although no video exists, a lone image has survived the passage of time. “It was a Boulder and Schnauzer show and these guys came on stage and started doing the Nazi salute. At least half of the Cleveland hardcore band members are Jewish. It definitely didn’t go over too well. […] It was a chaotic thing. It’s sad and comedic at the same time.”

Now that the production of Destroy Cleveland is completed and the premiere is just around the corner, Greenfield has a lot of plans. For the next year, he’s going to take time to promote Destroy Cleveland for a year, taking the documentary across seas to Europe and possibly Australia and New Zealand. Greenfield will continue to document music and culturally important artifacts from the Rust Belt region on his website, Rust Belt Hammer.

By showing his film to the world, Greenfield hopes that the Cleveland hardcore scene lives on forever. “I just think that it’s such a great and underrated, overlooked scene. It needs to be solidified in history. The music couldn’t exist anywhere else,” Greenfield says. “I want people to know about it whether it’s 3 people interested or 3 million. In 100 years people are going to be like ‘Wow this is what Cleveland hardcore was about. Look at this guy James from Ringworm and Tony Erba from 9 Shocks Terror and H 100. They had these crazy stories and lived crazy lives.’”

Destroy Cleveland premieres at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium, Friday, July 24 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be bought online or at the door.

An after party will commence at The Foundry Concert Club with local hardcore bands Splat, cruelster, and Bad Noids at 9:30 p.m. including special reunion with the Gordon Solie Motherfuckers. Tickets are $10.00.

The Destroy Cleveland DVD can also be pre-ordered for $16.00.

Nelsonville Music Festival 2015: Thursday

It’s surreal to think that last year’s tenth anniversary celebration of the Nelsonville Music Festival could have been the festival’s swan song. In April, two buildings caught fire next to Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville’s historic public square. Luckily, Stuart’s was spared, but not without taking damage, and placing the festival’s viability in doubt. Thanks to the perseverance of Stuart’s staff and sponsors, and the support of the Athens County business and music community, the festival survived. Their efforts helped make this year’s festival one of the finest to date.

Howard Feibusch
Howard Feibusch at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.


Before Howard took their positions on stage, the host confessed to the growing crowd that they were about to be spiritualized, and he wasn’t lying. Their complex sound featured an amazing orchestration of live musicianship, effects looping, and triggered electronics. Singer Howard Feibusch’s cycling crystalline guitar and sweeping atmospheric vocals seeped through the evening audience. Combined with drummer Chris Holdridge’s jazz-inspired polyrhythmic beats and bassist Myles Heff’s melodic overdriven lines, their folktronica sermon turned many listeners into true believers.

Speaking Suns at the Nelsonville Music Festival
Speaking Suns at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Speaking Suns

Earlier on the porch stage, we walked into the pleasant vibe of Speaking Suns. Hailing from Yellow Springs Ohio, their mid-tempo indie jam rock tinged with 70s danceable soul managed to get the festival crowd moving and shaking in the setting sunlight.

Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Ezra Furman

We were lucky enough to catch a very personal encounter with Ezra Furman as soon as we arrived on the festival grounds. As part of the Gladden House Sessions, he was perched on the porch of a Robbin’s Crossing cabin, decked in beach sunglasses and a tight red striped shirt and strapped with an acoustic guitar. He talked about the creative approach behind his new album and the surprising recognition of his music after years of obscurity. The generous folk influence on his songwriting burst through during his intimate solo performance.

Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Ezra Furman at the Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Dead Hand of Man at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015
Dead Hand of Man at Nelsonville Music Festival 2015. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Dead Hand of Man

Starting off on the porch stage was Dead Hand of Man. This trio of Athens Music Scene journeymen laid down fast and upbeat power chords with a punch. Their straight-ahead, classic punk-influenced songs got the early crowd’s attention and started the night with good energy.

Stay tuned for coverage from the rest of the weekend.

Sneak Peek: Nelsonville Music Festival 2015

photo by Mara Robinson (The Flaming Lips at Nelsonville Music Festival 2011)

This Thursday morning, Jason and I will be getting into the packed Prius and heading out to Robbin’s Crossing for Nelsonville Music Festival 2015 (May 28-31). Jason will be tweeting, posting, Instagramming and writing, and I’ll be shooting FreezeFrame from the pit. Here’s a sneak peek of who we’ll be covering.


Dead Hand of Man (Athens, OH)

Howard (Brooklyn, NY)

Ezra Furman (Chicago, IL)


The Summoners (Athens, OH)

Clarke and the Himselfs (Boise, ID)

Weird Science (Athens, OH)

Good English (Dayton, OH)

Mavis Staples (Chicago, IL)

Built to Spill (Boise, ID)

The Flaming Lips (Oklahoma City, OK)

Wooden Indian Burial Ground (Portland, OR)


The D-Rays (Athens, OH)

Sarah Neufeld (of Arcade Fire — Montreal, Canada)

Soddy Daisy (Chicago, IL)

Bummers (Columbus, OH)

Bassholes (Asheville, NC)

Budos Band (Staten Island, NY)

Natural Child (Nashville, TN)

The Black Lips (Atlanta, GA)

Oblivians (Memphis, TN)

St. Vincent (Manhattan, NY)

Moon Hooch (Brooklyn, NY)