Category Archives: Features

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.”

DestroyClevelandStill2
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.

Howard

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.

Thursday:

Dead Hand of Man (Athens, OH)

Howard (Brooklyn, NY)

Ezra Furman (Chicago, IL)

Friday:

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)

Saturday:

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)