Since I started this site and the subsequent "project," I have had a hard time with Cleveland. Detroit is a close second, but Cleveland far surpasses. Finding a band that actually is from there has been a chore I didn't want to deal with. I tried to contact the rare two that I heard of, but not only did I find out they were either from Akron and/or Kent, I never heard back a word from either one.
So I was flabbergasted to find out that Mr. Gnome is from Cleveland. I had always assumed they were from Toledo or Detroit. They recently agreed to help us out on People with Animal Heads (PWAH), by answering a few questions into the dark unknown void known as Cleveland. Don't be scared, readers. We must understand our darkest fears or elst they will overtake us.
But as glad as I am that Mr. Gnome obliged me, I must admit I still know nothing about Cleveland's music scene. I'm also sure that Cleveland bands will continue to never email you back and venues will always ignore you. Good luck show swapping. It won't happen. Your glass is half empty.
PWAH: First off, could you name some of your favorite Cleveland bands, and explain the overall "sound" currently coming out of the town. For example, Columbus is pretty fixated on that Pere Ubu/noise pop sound right now and there are numous bands who make up that scene.
Mr. Gnome: There are so many talented bands and artists in this area, some that we've had the pleasure of performing with include: If These Trees Could Talk - an instrumental band along the lines of Mogwai, Tool, Explosions in the Sky - Editor's note: They are actually from Akron.
There is also Infinite Number of Sounds - Editor's note: Although they broke up in early December- (another instrumental band known for their amazing audio/visual syncopated live shows).
And Xe La (a staple in the Cleveland local scene, former front man of Cows in the Graveyard, one of the most talented singer-songwriters I've ever come across, or had the pleasure of sharing a stage with) - Editor's note: Can't find any MP3s yet on them yet, but we're getting somewhere - and The Doctor Teeth (a good ol' 3 piece rock band known for their bad ass riffs and three-part harmonies) - Editor's note: They are actually from Kent. - As for a "sound" coming out of Cleveland, it's just too difficult to say. There isn't actually a dominate scene taking place here right now, no one sound seems more popular than any other, nor does one genre seem any more popular. There are a lot of mixed bills taking place, with a lot of original music not heavily influenced by anyone in particular.
PWAH: Cleveland has this very real reputation of being like China. The walls are up, big time. It is incredibly difficult for bands to get shows there. Most bands I know have given up long ago trying to get gigs there. Why do you think this is? Is it justified? That is one of the biggest unknowns about my project right now. I have been kind of using Cleveland as my whipping boy throughout the entire project, so I apologize for that.
Mr. Gnome: I'm sure there are a lot of hypothesis on this question and I can only offer another one. I do agree it can be hard for traveling bands without label representation to get into the clubs around here. I've actually heard it first hand from a number of regionally-touring bands, but I'm usually at a loss as to why. It doesn't make sense for a centrally-located city, home of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to not have a strong foothold in the underground regional scene, or to be a seemingly unwilling participant. I can't find any real justification for it, other than financially-based excuses. So that brings me to my hypothesis, which in itself is lame and overused. Its all a matter of money. The venues are more likely to invest in something commercially successful, than something with artistic integrity. They're more comfortable with short term success, than with the long-term potential growth and development of a strong music community. It's not a risk to work with bands on labels. They've already proven themselves, but it is a risk to work with someone unrepresented, who may or may not have the potential of future representation and commercial success. It's just too much of a crapshoot. But I do have to add, it's not just regional bands finding themselves shunned by Cleveland venues. This holds true for local musicians as well. It can be difficult to set up shows in advance with some venues. A lot of locals are just treated as safety nets when all else fails for the club. Second class citizens. Not all Cleveland venues are this way of course. There are a few local clubs that support the scene, but there are just as many that don't. It is the music "business," not the music co-op utopia. But on that note, if a talented band really does their research, locally or on a regional level, they'll undoubtedly find a venue, underground show, or promoter willing to work with them. Good music is good music, and that's not hard to sell, even in Cleveland.
PWAH: How would you suggest a band from Indiana or any other city in Ohio go about getting a gig in Cleveland?
Mr.Gnome: I guess I would suggest the normal routes of booking first. Find a club conducive to your style of music. Send an email, phone call...follow-up emails and phone calls. Polite persistence with whatever venue your interested in playing. If that fails, do a little research on the scene. There are a lot of underground parties and concerts at non-traditional venues taking place. Try to hook up with the artists and promoters putting on these events, because the people attending them are going to be much more receptive to new music and you'll most likely be treated with a certain amount of respect you might not find at a traditional venue. If all else fails and your in the position to, gig swap. Although a lot of bands don't seem to realize this works both ways. So if you can't hold up your end of the deal, don't set up a swap, you'll just end up burning your bridge back into that market. And your last chance of getting a gig in Cleveland...move to Cleveland, but really, who wants to move to Cleveland?