Goodbye Cleveland…

It’s been about a week since I returned from The Mistake on the Lake, with many memories of my stay.  The wildly energetic performance of almost- 60-year-old Bobby Liebling, the massive collection of artifacts at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame–the bitchy cab drivers who didn’t wanna break a 20, the prying border guards who searched my bag…  Well, they weren’t all fond memories.  But all in all, twas a highly enjoyable excursion.

While it was a rather long bus ride to and from, the journey was smooth, save for an instance when a guy tried to sell me a Jesus-on-the-cross necklace as we pulled into Erie, PA.  Even if I was a gangsta, I wouldn’t be caught dead with ice like that–and besides, it would really clash with my Pentagram long-sleeve.  Good luck hawking that thing in Erie, a small stopover between Buffalo and the big city.

Once I reached my final destination, I benefited from the convenient location of several points downtown.  The bus terminal, located on Cleveland State University campus, was just a five minute walk from my hotel and the venue, Peabody’s, was right around the corner.  Saved me a bundle on cab fare, which is a lot cheaper than Toronto’s to begin with.  (More on that later…)

Peabody’s opened its doors early, at 7 pm, as there were no less than four openers on the bill, including The Gates of Slumber, the tour’s supporting act.  Taking the stage first was Argus, who had driven down from Pittsburgh to perform.  The trad doom quintet had shades of Trouble in their dual-guitar harmonies, while lead singer Butch Balich employed the soaring vocal style of Messiah Marcolin, minus the cloak and Swedefro.  For those who filed in early, they started the evening on a high note.

I wasn’t familiar with, or expecting, local band Midnight to come on next.  I knew that Keelhaul and Argus would be opening, but was uninformed of a third supporting act.  A definite change of pace, the black/thrash trio all wore executioner’s hoods–and little else.  The band contains former members of Boulder, but their sound is modern-day Darkthrone meets Motorhead meets the Misfits.  While I can only tolerate small doses of black metal, I prefer the raw, punky variety as performed by these guys.  A welcome change of pace as the place started to fill up.

Keelhaul provided a few more changes of pace, time, tempo, and what have you.  They started off with some sludgier material before riding a cosmic groove to prog rock land.  Or at least that’s how my booze-addled brain remembered it.  (A tall plastic cup of Blue, priced as an IMPORT, was still just 6 bucks…)

The Gates of Slumber have developed into a steady-touring, heavy-hitting road band.  (They’re hitting the road again with WEEDEATER in April.  And yes, Toronto’s on the itinerary-scroll down for it!)  They even had their own intro music, lites dimming as a handful of us crazy drunks up front shouted “Gates, Gates, Gates!”  While there were a couple songs dedicated to Karl Simon’s strings, tunes like “Ice Worm” and “Blood and Thunder” were absolutely crushing from my vantage point, tuning be damned!

As for Pentagram, well, they were really something else.  To say they played a lotta old stuff would be redundant, as even later albums like Review Your Choices and Be Forwarned include songs written in the 70’s.  But man, “Walk in the Blue Light,” “Sign of the Wolf,” “20 Buck Spin,” “Be Forewarned”… all killer tunes, to say the least.  The band was rounded out by ex-Spirit Caravan drummer Gary Isom, ex-Unorthodox bassist Mark Ammen, and guitarist Russ Strahan, who’s played in a buncha bands that neither you nor I have heard of (unless names like Blessed Vengeance, Ectoplasm and Land of Doom ring a bell, in which case you’re either a card-carrying member of the Circle Of True Doom–or you live in Maryland…)

Strahan turned in one helluva performance, coaxing some classic doom metal tones out of his instrument.  But the star of the show was Bobby Liebling, whose nasal cries have held up throughout countless years of drug abuse.  Sporting skin-tight jeans, boots, a poofy-sleeved shirt and a whole lotta jewelry, his evil stare cut through the crowd when he wasn’t grabbing himself or mimicking the guitar solos with an arm around Strahan.  I’ve seen performers half his age with less than one-tenth of his presence and fire; more than I can count.

The most interesting aspect of the evening were a couple new songs from the tentatively-titled Last Rites album, with no fixed release date as of yet.  “Sounds of the Swamp” showed us that Bobby’s forgotten more about doom than we’ll ever know, and a new Pentagram record with this lineup is certainly a must-buy.

My only disappointment (aside from having my toque ripped off and a can of beer poured on my head) was in the lack of Penta-merch.  The only CDs for sale were the two First Daze Here comps, and the only shirts left at the beginning of the evening were size small.  They clearly underestimated their selling power, with dates in Detroit and Chicago still to come.  Fortunately, I can still squeeze into a small, although it’s a tight fit.  I’ll hafta keep this one outta the wash to avoid shrinkage–and maybe lay off the pizza for a bit.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t hide the feeling of euphoria as I stumbled back to the Comfort Inn, beer-soaked and sweaty, my autographed CD pressed close to my chest.

(Any interest in reading Part 2 of my travels, describing the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland bar scene, and an AHL hockey game at Quicken Loans Arena?  I’m debating whether to post it over here or on THTGIR, should the need arise…)

Peace,

Greg

P.S.: I’ll be spinning some Argus, Keelhaul, TGOS and Pentagram on Smokin’ Green tonite, along with Penta-contemporaries like Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Mountain and MC5.  Be sure to tune in at 1 am at 88.1 fm on yer radio, channel 947 on yer TV, or www.ckln.fm on yer computer!

Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.