Tag Archives: Mara Robinson

Photo Recap: Toad The Wet Sprocket at Kent Stage

The threatening skies over Kent held off just long enough to have a clear evening leading up to show time. The downtown area surrounding The Kent Stage was already abuzz with early fans waiting to see Toad the Wet Sprocket in their original glory. In the years since their prominence in the ’90s, the enduring foursome have continued to periodically travel and pack venues to maximum capacity, and tonight is no exception. 

Megan Slankard by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

The sold-out crowd was first greeted by the impressionable talents of Megan Slankard, joined on stage by Adam Nash on slide/rhythm guitar and percussion. The San Francisco duo brightened early concert-goers with friendly and inviting banter and an acoustic guitar style that combined the flair of modern Nashville with radio-friendly folk rock. Her powerful voice blended country soul with distinct clarity that gave each song a certain strength and personal touch.

Megan Slankard and Adam Nash by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard & Adam Nash by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Adam Nash by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Adam Nash by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

In a touching moment, Megan and Adam paid special tribute to Aretha Franklin and celebrated her legacy by performing an intimate rendition of I Say a Little Prayer. The Toad fans in the audience really appreciated her expressive and energetic style, and were brought to their feet several times during her set to praise her outstanding gifts. Megan’s performance captured the attention of the crowd and provided the necessary shot of energy in preparation for the coming of Toad.

Adam Nash by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Adam Nash by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard by Akron rock photographer Photography Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Megan Slankard by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

After a moving audio tribute to The Queen of Soul on an empty stage, Toad the Wet Sprocket stepped out to bring the same love to the capacity crowd.  Joining lead vocalist Glen Philips at the front stage mics was Todd Nichols on guitar and Dean Dinning on bass. Atop the back risers was long-standing support from Jonathan Kingham on keyboards, mandolin, and lap steel guitar (you may remember him from our coverage of Glen’s solo show last year at Cleveland’s Music Box) and a talented stand-in drummer Josh Daubin, who looks like a more handsome, better-coiffed Bo Burnham. 

Glen Phillips Toad the Wet Sprocket by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Glen Phillips, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Glen — with his trademark bare feet — remarked that he and the band were glad to be back in Kent again. Even though it’s been about seven years since the last time the full band was in town, Glen mentioned he’d usually visit during his solo tours in the winter, with the cold snow and no one walking around. But now, in the summer, “it’s a different place, it’s green, there are people. You tricked me!”

Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Todd Nichols, Glen Phillips, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Todd Nichols, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Todd Nichols, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Toad started their set with This Moment from their latest release, New Constellation, a great example of the modern approach to their classic style, with signature harmonizing and an upbeat and catchy chorus. From there, they rolled into a trio of songs through their decorated ’90s catalog: endearing Crowing from DulcineaWhatever I Fear, the energetic opener from Coil; and then a crowd-rising sing along of their breakout hit from Fear, All I Want. They even featured a duo of their more memorable songs from In Light Syrup: Good Intentions, the irresistible tale of poor choices and bad experiences, and the uplifting and heartfelt Brother. Before long, the entire crowd finally got out of their seats and started rocking out on their feet.

Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Jonathan Kingham, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Jonathan Kingham, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Jonathan Kingham, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Jonathan Kingham, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

The bulk of their set list covered their current sound from the New Constellation and Architect of the Ruin releases, including Architect of the Ruin, Golden Age, Enough, and their ode to the west coast, California Wasted. They still capture the chemistry that makes their songs connect so well with their fans. Their sound keeps the core elements of inspired and emotional songwriting, infectious pop phrasing, and harmonic depth, but now with a modern polish and process.

Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

They also offered a large selection from their standout albums from the ’90s, Fear and Dulcinea. Within the first few notes of each song, the individual reaction from the die-hards in the crowd was incredible to behold. It remains their strongest musical work and is home to many fan favorites, like Windmills, Fly From Heaven, and Nightingale Song. They closed out the night with the big riff energy of Fall Down, and rewarded the cheering crowd for an encore with two of their biggest hits, Something’s Always Wrong and Walk on the Ocean.

Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com
Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

But the crowd wasn’t made up completely of die-hard fans; there were some newcomers as well. Before the show began, a gentleman and his wife took their seats next to us and asked if we knew “whether the bands tonight are any good.” He admitted he’d never heard of either act, but I assured him he’d most certainly heard several Toad songs over the years. So what brought them to the show? Well, the answer will rekindle your faith in the goodness of humanity. Earlier that day, the gentleman inadvertently met Glen at a pizza shop. When Glen realized he’d forgotten his wallet, the gentleman graciously paid for him, and Glen gave him two tickets to the show in return. 

Glen Phillips, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron rock photographer Mara Robinson Photography www.MaraRobinson.com
Glen Phillips, Toad the Wet Sprocket by Akron music photographer Mara Robinson www.MaraRobinson.com

Since Toad’s reunion, they have achieved a renewed success that few could have predicted. After reclaiming songs from their early catalog with All You Want in 2011, and the vinyl reissues of Fear and Dulcinea, they released New Constellation independently as a crowdfunded project on their own label. Toad the Wet Sprocket is poised to continue bringing their stories to the world long into the foreseeable future, and we can only hope they will choose to do so.

For more details on tour dates and venues, and more news from the band, visit Toad the Wet Sprocket’s official website.

See more photos at MaraRobinson.com 

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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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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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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

 

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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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