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.

All photos by internationally published Cleveland / Akron music photographer Mara Robinson. 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.

All photos by internationally published Cleveland / Akron music photographer Mara Robinson. See more photos at MaraRobinson.com

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Charles Hill Jr releases new music benefiting hurricane relief

Cleveland country artist Charles Hill Jr recently recorded a direct-to-wax performance of his new song Little Buddy with new studio The Earnest Tube run by local engineer Clint Holley. 

All Earnest Tube recordings are done straight to lacquer, with no overdubs, multitracking or mixing. 

Hill wrote Little Buddy with hope that anyone with a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, can relate to. 

The song was written the night of his baby niece’s first Christmas. “The whole song is about the moment I met her. Little facial expressions she was making when she was only a number of hours old, I looked at my sister and was like, ‘Well, you messed up. You made a me. You better try to make another one that’s like you.'” 

“I’d actually sat down to write a song about Ken [Janssen, Cleveland friend, frontman and founder of Stow House Records, who died of ALS New Year’s Day 2015] said Hill. “This one just came out instead.” 

This single is the very first Earnest Tube recording. Neither Hill nor Holley had done it before. 

“We were just testing out how the process was going to work,” said Hill. “It was never to be released.” But since the recording turned out so well, he decided to run with it. 

“It humanizes the whole [recording process]. There’s a little warble in it just because of how it’s done, but I like that. It gives it a sort of old school aesthetic.”

The single also features a B-side cover of Blaze Foley’s If I Could Only Fly and will be available in a limited edition of 25 hand-made custom pressings, signed and numbered by Charles himself, with proceeds benefiting hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. These pressings form Wax Mage Records go on presale Monday October 16 on Hill’s Bandcamp

“I’m not one to go on Facebook and bitch about the president. I just don’t think it does any good,” says Hill. “Obviously he didn’t approach or execute as well as he should have with the hurricane in Puerto Rico. I mean, you can just see the apathy in the press conferences. So instead of getting mad about it on the internet, I decided it’s just better to try to stay positive and do something good about it.” 

Additional copies will follow November 17 on Stow House Records, with a release party that night at Survival Kit, part of the 78th Street Studios art galleries. Hill will be joined by Al Moss on pedal steel and Mike Allen (The Dreadful Yawns) on bass. Supporting acts Clint Holley and Brandon Shields (The Lucky Ones) will also perform. 

“I love playing [at Survival Kit]” Hill says. “It’s intimate. And especially with the third Friday [shows] you sort of get a built-in crowd and it’s all people that are there to absorb art in whatever way you give it to them.” 

Charles Hill Jr Little Buddy Album Art
Album Art by Eric Alleman
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Shaun Fleming of Diane Coffee Answers the Famous Proust Questionnaire

Two years after author Marcel Proust died, among his belongings they found a questionnaire titled Marcel Proust Himself, which was later used for interviews by Bernard Pivot and Vanity Fair. We love it, and are happy to rejuvenate it here at Blown Speakers. 

Before coming back to Cleveland on tour in support of his latest Diane Coffee album, Everybody’s A Good Dog, Shaun Fleming took time to answer it for us, and we happily present it along with the photos by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
Shaun Fleming, Diane Coffee by Mara Robinson

 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
SF: Honestly, THIS is. I have the love of a beautiful woman, I’m playing my music to people who WANT to listen, and I’m able to make a living off that music.

What is your most marked characteristic?
SF: I’d like to think my persistent positivity.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
SF: The release of my first record.

What is your greatest fear?
SF: The deterioration of my mind

Which living person do you most admire?
SF: My little brother Dan.

Who are your heroes in real life?
SF: David Wilcox, John C Reilly, Sam Cooke, Sufjan Stevens, Donovan, Paul McCartney, Steve Martin, Marc Cohn.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
SF: I can get lost in the task at hand… Lose sight of the bigger picture.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
SF: The inability to walk in others shoes.

What is your favorite journey?
SF: I love the trip all the way down the PCH.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
SF: I’d like to think I’m a man of virtue, I think they all have value.

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
SF: Sick. But more like “siiiiiiiick.”

What is your greatest regret?
At the moment I can’t think of any. I love who I am and where I’m at.

What is your current state of mind?
Calm and ready to shut down for the evening.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
We would all be living closer.

What is your most treasured possession?
Maybe my ring? I never take it off.

Where would you like to live?
Northern California. Maybe somewhere in the redwoods.

What is your favorite occupation?
Other than music? I’ve always loved the idea of cranberry farming.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Gentleness.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Toughness.

What are your favorite names?
Pierce and Ruth.

What is your motto?
Dream Big.

See more photos at www.MaraRobinson.com 
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