It was a Midwestern affair on Monday Night at the Grog Shop, with Trade School (Minnesota) and Gossip Culture (Cleveland) opening for super-fresh Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (Detroit). To be from the Midwest is to embody a certain mindset or philosophy that it’s OK to be the underdog, i.e. we don’t care about our forgotten industry because we’re really the backbone of this hackneyed American Dream.
The Grog is small and intimate with no strange corners for the sound to get trapped in; the beer selection is impressive and the prices reasonable; with a max capacity likely less than 300, it’ll rock with 75-80 people inside; really an ideal place to see a show. After a bout on the infamous Ms. Pac-Man machine, Minnesota’s Trade School took the stage — a guy and a girl playing synths with warmth and emotion, strong beats and stronger melodies. According to their singer, the other band mates are in rehab and prison, a tidbit he related with brilliant deadpan if he was indeed joking. Information’s scant beyond this – to give you a sense of their talents. With a full lineup they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Gossip Culture (Ryan Sheridan) is from CLE, and us Northeast Ohioans love to promote a homegrown product. I’d say there were 15-20 devotees who had seen him a few times before. Surely they would like Gossip Culture regardless of their place of origin. The music is fun and danceable, at times obscure but never pretentious. The bassist was an old pro and the drummer was proof that a wide variety of sound can erupt from an 8-piece kit. Their cover of “Maneater” by Hall and Oates was a highlight of the set. I loved the Pere Ubu / Devo influence, (two of the area’s most notable exports.) Fans of The Avalanches and Caribou must keep an ear to the ground for news of Mr. Sheridan’s whereabouts. In addition to an occasional Youngstown show (a.k.a. Steeltown, U.S.A.), Gossip Culture has an EP release show set for October 22nd at The Beachland Tavern.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. made their presence known between sets by carrying out a J & an R bedazzled with 100 watt light bulbs, easily an A+ shop class midterm. It helped brighten the dimly lit stage for a few moments at the beginning of the set. The letters embody D.I.Y. mentality, which is the ethic of the entire rust belt. The name of their acclaimed LP says it all: It’s A Corporate World. In a world where corporate greed has destroyed the American Dream, only a D.I.Y. ethic will allow the stomped-upon individual to cut his/her little slice of destiny. Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein took the stage wearing Detroit Tigers warm-up jackets with synths blaring and their fists pumped to the sky before opening with “Morning Thought”, and in that moment the drastic population flight from Cleveland and Detroit became moot. The 75-80 people in attendance rocked out with the fury of 200. As they played through their LP and made it to their cover of “God Only Knows”, those once-heralded titans of rock radio, CKLW and WMMS, still held sway in Michigan and Ohio. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s saccharine melodies are instantly relatable (think Wayne Coyne circa ’95), but a pervading world-weary wistfulness is only detectable by us fellow natives of the Midwest. There was witty banter full of site-specific references and irreverent swinging from the Grog’s creaky ceiling plumbing, which capped a night replete with an authenticity rarely found on the NYC / LA culture farms.
Contributed by Chris Gedos
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Morning Thought
Gossip Culture – Horses Run Wild