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Photo Recap: Matthew Sweet at Beachland Ballroom

After releasing two new albums in two years, Matthew Sweet and his trusted musical crew of Ric Menck on drums, Paul Chastain on bass, and John Moremen on solo guitar made their way back to Cleveland and ready to bring tunes from Tomorrow Forever and Tomorrow’s Daughter to the masses.

During our interview with Matthew for his last visit to Cleveland, he mentioned that this latest batch of songs could be more than just one album, with a possible bonus disc of demos. Considering the energetic burst of writing and recording that Matthew’s done since his move back to Nebraska and re-establishing his home studio, it carries little surprise that there were enough complete extras to form another full album. 

The songs from Tomorrow’s Daughter and last year’s crowdfunded release, Tomorrow Forever, mark a new creative milestone in Matthew’s musical journey and certainly his most prolific and exciting period of songwriting since the Altered Beast period. The plethora of B-sides, demos, and live cuts, along with the Son of Altered Beast EP could equal out to a full album worth of material. With Tomorrow’s Daughter, it’s like getting all those hidden gems in one package. Don’t think that these songs wouldn’t have the same quality as the songs that were chosen for Tomorrow Forever; they definitely merit a separate release as a complementary volume to this musical chapter. It’s better to have a full album like Daughter than to let these songs never get heard. 

John Moremen, Matthew Sweet, Ric Menck by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
John Moremen, Matthew Sweet, Ric Menck by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Matthew Sweet & Ric Menck by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Matthew Sweet, Ric Menck by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Matthew and the band started the evening with Time Capsule, one of his most popular tunes from the critically-acclaimed Altered Beast. The connection with fan base from the Girlfriend and Altered Beast anniversary tours showed that his most popular albums from the early-to-mid-’90s still have a lasting impression with fans. Matthew’s live set is best-known for heavy hitters like Girlfriend, Evangeline and I’ve Been Waiting, and heartfelt ballads like Winona and The Devil With The Green Eyes, which blend beautifully with the raw sound of his current releases.

Ric Menck by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Ric Menck byCleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Paul Chastain by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Paul Chastain by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

For the next song, he launched into Byrdgirl from 2010’s Sunshine Lies. It’s a treat to hear rare songs that don’t often appear live on stage. These deep cuts and personal faves perfectly bind the current vibe of the new songs with the classic Girlfriend guitar rock that signifies Matthew’s sound. He still includes songs from the fantastic 100% Fun like We’re The Same and Sick of Myself with multiple fake-out big rock endings to keep the crowd going for more.

Ric Menck, Matthew Sweet, Paul Chastain by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Ric Menck, Matthew Sweet, Paul Chastain by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
John Moremen & Matthew Sweet by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
John Moremen, Matthew Sweet by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Following that, the band kicked off with Pretty Please from Tomorrow Forever, a stomping rhythm rocker that recalls the attacking riff style of Altered Beast and Kimi Ga Suki Raifu. The Tomorrow Forever songs really match well with big hits and crowd pleasers from Matthew’s vast catalog. Songs like Trick bring back the hook-laden power pop of 100% Fun, with an interesting mix of slower songs that show a deeper and darker side to Matthew’s songwriting. Songs in the set like The Searcher from Tomorrow Forever, with its Dinosaur Act pedal feedback leading into the drifty sway of the ocean, and Show Me from Tomorrow’s Daughter, keep an even driving rock beat with the emotional and down tempo feel.

Ric Menck,, Matthew Sweet, Paul Chastain by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson
Ric Menck,, Matthew Sweet, Paul Chastain by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Throughout the evening, the entire group delivered the goods with a cool and relaxed spirit, and it seemed that Matthew’s performance was more at ease than in previous years. The torch bearers for the ’70s stadium guitar power pop of Cheap Trick, Big Star and ELO are few and far between in today’s music environment, but Matthew’s enduring style evokes their energy in ever evolving ways. Now that he can produce music independently with the support from his devoted and generous fans, he has no reason to hold back on his next creative effort. The next era of Matthew Sweet has a lot to offer, and it’s guaranteed to rock.

For more details on tour dates, latest releases, and more news, visit Matthew Sweet’s official website.

See more photos at MaraRobinson.com 

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Carl Newman Talks Depression, Insomnia, Trump on new album

When Carl Newman of powerpop outfit The New Pornographers answered my pre-show phone call he responded, “Hey, (Blown Speakers) I’ve got a song by that name.” So if he didn’t already know we were fans from our past shenanigans, our name was probably a good indication.

The band’s most recent album, Whiteout Conditions, is the first album with new drummer Joe Seiders, after longtime member Kurt Dhale left in 2014. It also marks the first album without a single song by Dan Bejar, who was busy making a new Destroyer album.

“Ultimately our schedules just didn’t fit. I’m amazed it was the first time that happened,” said Newman.

Carl Newman, The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
Carl Newman by Mara Robinson

While Bejar’s absence on Whiteout Conditions was noticeable, it made for a more cohesive album of only Carl Newman songs. But with seven core members in the band, all spread out over great distances, everyone else managed to put their signature stamp on this album and the recording process remained status quo.

“Working on my songs is a similar process every time. I maybe get it in my head that I want to make a different kind of song, but it’s still just going in there and trying to figure it out. It always feels like a puzzle to me. It’s just a process of trying a lot of things and seeing what works. To a certain degree, a lot of it comes back to being a music fan. I record something and then try to listen to it as if I were the person buying the record. If I think, ‘yeah, I would like this,’ it stays.”

Newman once tweeted out a message that songwriting isn’t easy. During our chat, he elaborated. “There are some parts I find easier than others, like the chord structures and melody and rhythm, and that’s what I start with almost always. And then I have to figure out how to fit the lyrics around this. That’s where songwriting becomes work.”

The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson

A few songs on the album, like title track Whiteout Conditions, and Second Sleep deal with common topics in music and art: anxiety, depression and insomnia, but still keep that upbeat New Pornographers pop sound.

“I try to write about things in a hopeful way. It’s about trying to get out of it. It’s about fighting it,” says Newman.

The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson

“Then you have songs like High Ticket Attractions that’s less about internal struggle and more about the external struggle of what’s going on in the world. It was 2016 when we were making this record, and the election, and there was that fear that if he won it would be as bad as it is right now. It’s terrifying to me for a number of reasons. It’s policy, but also you realize, ‘Holy shit, he reflects a massive chunk of America.’ I’m sure there was the Russian election hacking, and I’m sure there were nefarious things going on. But even with all of that, there are still tens of millions of people who thought, ‘I’d rather vote for him over her.’ That part is scary.

I think millions of people woke up the next day and thought, “Wait, this isn’t the country I thought it was. We have to readjust. The country we thought was America, it was a myth. This is America now. ”

The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson

After tours for Together and Brill Brusiers hit Cleveland’s House of Blues, it was nice to see The New Pornographers return to the Beachland Ballroom. If Neko Case had been there, she would have been happy, after being vocal about her fondness for the venue from the stage and her Twitter feed. In her absence, Kathryn Calder and touring singer/violinist Simi Stone filled in on songs like Colosseums, Champions of Red Wine and Mass Romantic.

Kathryn Calder, The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
Kathryn Calder by Mara Robinson

The band hit songs from all seven albums with a 21-song set list and minimal between-song banter. All Carl asked of the audience was one simple request:
Don’t call him Hot Carl. 

The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers in Cleveland
Blaine Thurier by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
Kathryn Calder, The New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
Kathryn Calder by Mara Robinson
Simi Stone, New Pornographers by Mara Robinson
Simi Stone by Mara Robinson
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Wire at the Beachland Ballroom

DJ Party Sweat spinning before Wire at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson
DJ Party Sweat spinning before Wire at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

From the moment we entered the nostalgic flyer-covered walls of the Beachland Ballroom, it truly felt like stepping into an underground club from the 80s. The groove of DJ Party Sweat’s pulsating vinyl beats set the soundtrack before the ambient pop-noise stylings of Julian Lynch. His solo performance captured the early audience’s attention, with a whispered voice, multi-color guitar, and two briefcases stacked with effects and processors.

Wire (Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, Colin Newman) live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Wire (Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, Colin Newman) live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

With their fourteenth studio album and a career that spans over thirty years, Wire has earned a no-nonsense reputation, especially when it comes to their stage performance. That level of respect for their craft is equally reflected by the devotion of the fans who filled the ballroom floor.

Colin Newman of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Colin Newman of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

The front of the stage was a guitar and gear lover’s dream: from the massive Eastwood hollow-bodied twelve-string and streamlined Airline guitars in Colin Newman’s arsenal, to the artful pickguard on Graham Lewis’ souped-up bass, and the sea of unique effects pedals arranged in front of each member’s station. Wire’s embrace of technology has been their hallmark, and their growing cache of technological prowess continues to surprise their audiences.

Graham Lewis of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Graham Lewis of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Wire started their set with a pair of uptempo selections from their new self-titled album, Blogging and Joust and Jostle. Both tunes display the quick beats, angular chords, and short length that has become their signature style. The low-tone hook-laden punk sounds just as fresh as their classic album catalog.

Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

Their set continued with more new material peppered with choice picks from recent albums like Stealth of a Stork and early work like Blessed State. The sonic showcases during Sleep-Walking and their final song Harpooned were fantastic to behold. Guitarist Matthew Simms’ technical musicianship and dexterity was on full display, with incredible feedback, synthesized solos, and brilliant electronic textures on his lefty Fender and lap slide guitars.

Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.
Matthew Simms of Wire live at the Beachland Ballroom. Photo by Mara Robinson.

After a brief departure, they returned for a final encore kicked off with Adore Your Island from Change Becomes Us and closed out the night with more fan favorites, including a rare song from Pink Flag. Wire is known for not doing fan requests, but hopefully they’ll oblige to their great group of devotees and return to Cleveland on their next tour.

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Live Review: Lightning Bolt/Metz/Chomp at the Beachland Ballroom

It may have been a good idea to bring a set of earplugs to the Beachland Ballroom Friday night as the aggressive chaos-inducing noise-rock of Lightning Bolt, METZ and Chomp emanated from the stage and penetrated concertgoers’ ears.

Cleveland’s own Chomp kicked off the night with Joe Boyer on vocals, Jeff Latimer on bass and Scott Reid on drums. Boyer’s voice ranged from melodic drifts to gravelly screams. Reid’s drumming reached a vomit-inducing high that did not deter him one bit except for a five second recovery period before delving into one of Chomp’s newest songs, “The Rational Anthem”. You can catch Chomp again at Mahall’s on April 30.

METZ hailing from Toronto took no time to create a sweat-filled haze over the crowd that literally fogged up lead singer Alex Edkin’s glasses. Edkin’s shredding matched bass player’s Chris Sloarch’s wild antics while drummer Hayden Menzies pounded away in a maniacal fashion. Edkin’s interactions was minimal but when prompted, the crowd responded back with mighty whooping before diving back into the mosh pit once a new song started.

Much anticipated headliner Lightning Bolt took to the stage – a rarity as their sets are usually performed on the ground surrounded by the crowd. Bassist Brian Gibson left the talking and crowd interaction up to drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale as he stood off to the side quietly concentrating on his loops and tapping. Chippendale’s furious drumming threw concertgoers into a violent frenzy while he bellowed unintelligible lyrics into his masked microphone. Playing songs off their recently released album Fantasy Empire, it was not long before those in attendance mustered the courage to hop on stage and thrash along in usual Lightning Bolt fashion.

 

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