The Music Issue

Here's your backstage pass to our rich popular-music scene. From the rediscovery of a jazz legend to the reinvention of dirty juke-joint blues to the national rise of the city's biggest band, we celebrate Cleveland's new faces and old favorites.

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Black Keys MP3
Jaded Era MP3
The Six Parts Seven MP3
The Music Issue Outtakes
The Music Issue Slideshow
Rock 'n' Roll Quiz

The Roll

The '50s
The Hornets — Formed in 1951 at Central High School, The Hornets were originally known as The Mellotones. The doo-wop group had no hit singles and few releases, but were one of the city's most beloved R&B ensembles.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins — Legend has it that DJ Alan Freed once paid Hawkins $300 to make his stage entrance from a coffin. The gimmick persisted long after Freed's demise and songs such as "I Put a Spell on You" have sealed Hawkins' place in history.

The Moonglows — They didn't have the longevity of their contemporaries such as The Orioles and The Drifters, but The Moonglows' six-year career yielded a handful of hits, such as "Sincerely."

The '60s
Robert Lockwood Jr. — A Grammy winner, top session player for Chess Records and a one-time student of blues master Robert Johnson, Lockwood played all over the city in the '60s, following his move from Chicago. At age 89, he still plays Fat Fish Blue weekly.

The Grasshoppers — Founded in 1962, The Grasshoppers scored a regional hit in 1965 with "Mod Rocks." The band broke up that same year. Frontman Benny Orzechowski of Cleveland later shortened his name to Ben Orr and joined '80s hit makers The Cars.

The Baskerville Hounds — The Grasshoppers founder Dante Rossi left that band in 1964 to start this one. A year later, the band's single "Hurtin' Kind" received heavy local airplay, but the Hounds never hit it big. They broke up in the early '70s.

The James Gang — Founded in 1966 by drummer Jim Fox, guitarist Glenn Schwartz and bassist Tom Kriss, lineup changes eventually brought Joe Walsh and Dale Peters to the trio, as well as the hit "Funk #49." Walsh left in 1971. The James Gang broke up in 1976.

Joe Walsh (The James Gang, The Eagles) — The Kansas native enrolled at Kent State University in 1965 and immersed himself in the local scene. He joined The James Gang in 1969, then later went solo before enlisting with The Eagles in 1976 for "Hotel California."

Sonny Geraci (The Outsiders, Climax) — As the singer for Cleveland's The Outsiders, Geraci hit the charts in 1966 with "Time Won't Let Me." He reached the Top 10 again in 1972 with "Precious and Few," recorded with his L.A.-based band, Climax.

The Numbers Band — Founded in Kent in 1969, the Numbers Band (a.k.a. 15 60 75) is still going strong. Legend has it the band's 1977 debut gig in New York City inspired John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to create the Blues Brothers.

The '70s
The O'Jays — These Canton natives were one of the greatest soul vocal groups of the '70s. Forming in 1958, the band recorded a string of hits, including "For the Love of Money" and "Love Train." Their most recent release was 2001's "For the Love ..."

Glass Harp — This Youngstown-based, Christian-themed rock act borrowed heavily from the school of Hendrix and Cream. They broke up in 1972, just two years after their debut, but reunited in 2000 to sold-out crowds.

The Raspberries — The Raspberries, formed in Mentor in 1970, were signed to Capitol Records a year later and had a power-pop hit in "Go All the Way," which sold more than a million records. The band released three more albums before breaking up in 1975.

Devo — It's pretty hard to forget Akron natives and new-wave champions Devo, with their red flowerpot hats, goggles and yellow jumpsuits. Started in 1972 by two Kent State art students, the band became part of pop culture with its 1980 MTV video hit "Whip It."

Eric Carmen (The Raspberries) — Following his band's 1975 breakup, Carmen churned out hits such as "All by Myself" and "Never Gonna Love Again." The 1987 film "Dirty Dancing" gave him a Top-10 single with "Hungry Eyes."

Michael Stanley — A Cleveland rock fixture, the Michael Stanley Band churned out hits such as "He Can't Love You" and "My Town" during the '70s and '80s. Superstardom never came, but the WNCX afternoon host still performs to the delight of loyal fans.

Rocket From the Tombs — The band that would one day split into The Dead Boys and Pere Ubu (taking Rocket songs with them) broke up in 1975 after just a few shows. Their legend buoyed by bootleg tapes, a proper live album hit record stores in February 2002.

Pere Ubu — Formed in 1975, these Cleveland art rockers delivered songs they described as "avant garage." They are a major influence on modern indie rock and count fellow revolutionary rock acts such as R.E.M. and The Pixies among their fans.

The Dead Boys — For legions of angst-ridden youth, Cleveland was a punk paradise in the '70s. Enter The Dead Boys, an act that sported a pure punk philosophy of violence and nihilism. Today, Pearl Jam routinely covers their song "Sonic Reducer" in concert.

Tin Huey — This Akron band's 1979 Warner Bros. debut, which included a cover of "I'm a Believer," was more Frank Zappa than power pop. Records sales were weak and the band broke up. Leader Chris Butler later joined '80s one-hit wonder The Waitresses.

Alex Bevan — "Skinny Little Boy" made Alex Bevan a regional star and a Cleveland FM radio favorite in the late '70s. Today, Bevan is still playing, though he's also penned tunes for Put-in-Bay crooner Pat Dailey and has written more than 100 radio and TV commercials.

The '80s
Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) — This Akron native has fronted The Pretenders since 1978. She's recorded '80s rock classics such as "Back on the Chain Gang" and "My City Was Gone," a reflection on returning to her hometown.

First Light — They never landed a major record deal, but First Light had a huge local following during its 15-year run. Started in 1984 by former members of local reggae group I-Tal, the band fused jazz, R&B and rock into its Jamaican-rooted rhythms.

Tracy Chapman — The writer of the haunting '80s hit single "Fast Car," Grammy-winner Tracy Chapman grew up in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood before winning a scholarship to Tufts University and becoming smitten with folk-rock music.

Ben Orr (The Cars, The Grasshoppers) — Orr played guitar on the local TV show "Upbeat" and fronted the regional rock act The Grasshoppers in 1965 before moving to Boston and forming multi-platinum-selling '80s rock act The Cars. Orr died in 2000 at age 53.

Beau Coup — This Cleveland rock act broke into the Billboard pop charts in 1987 with their song "Sweet Rachel," after being picked up by Amherst-A&M Records. Despite a strong local following, the group broke up in the early '90s.

Wild Horses — If you lived in Cleveland during the early '80s, chances are pretty good you remember the Wild Horses hit "Funky Poodle." Started in 1974, the band is still together, and recently played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and The Odeon.

The '90s
Nine Inch Nails — NIN founder Trent Reznor developed his revolutionary industrial sound in the city's recording studios in the '80s. His musical brainchild sold millions of records during the '90s, fueled by songs such as "Head Like a Hole" and "Closer."

Odd Girl Out — This female-fronted rock act was the antithesis of '80s hair bands. Though the group was a major local draw, the big labels never bit during the grunge-happy early '90s. Band members Anne E. DeChant and Alexis Antes perform today as solo artists.

Gerald LeVert — The son of O'Jays member Eddie LeVert Sr., Gerald first led the trio LeVert, scoring a pop and R&B hit with "Casanova." He went solo with his 1991 debut, "Private Line," claiming a No. 1 R&B single with the title track.

Liz Phair — While studying art at Oberlin College, Phair became enamored of indie rock. Her 1993 debut, "Exile in Guyville," is already a classic. The 1994 follow-up, "Whip-Smart," landed her on the cover of Rolling Stone. In 2003, she released her fourth album.

Bone Thugs N' Harmony — Signed by the late rap legend Eazy-E, Cleveland's Bone Thugs N' Harmony made a big name for themselves during the '90s. They won a rap-duo Grammy in 1996, but the end of the '90s also marked the end of the group's heyday.

Marilyn Manson — Canton native Brian Warner moved to Florida after high-school graduation and gave birth to his infamous shock-rock persona. In 1993, Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor provided the big break by signing Manson to his record label.

Macy Gray — Born in Canton, Ohio, in 1970, Macy Gray fled to Los Angeles after high school to study screenwriting. Her raspy growl led to a try at a singing career. In 1998, her Epic Records debut sold millions of copies on the power of the soulful hit single "I Try."

Richard Patrick (Filter) — He's the evil terminator's brother and a former staple in Trent Reznor's backing band, but Rocky River native Richard Patrick — the sibling of actor Robert Patrick — is best known for his band Filter's 1999 single "Take a Picture."

Tim "Ripper" Owens (Judas Priest) — In 1992, Owens went from fronting a local Judas Priest cover band to fronting the Judas Priest after the band heard him sing. In 2003, original singer Rob Halford returned and Owens was out. He now fronts the band Iced Earth.

The Black Keys

The Black Keys count down the seconds to midnight. 2004 begins, the sold-out Beachland Ballroom crowd cheers, kisses and hugs, and the Keys launch their first song. Dan Auerbach's guitar speaks the blues language everyone knows, and his deep, rough voice sounds like an old blues singer's, but something else is going on, too. Patrick Carney's tight, quick drumbeats and the guitar's fuzzed aggression catapult past Delta blues, past Creamesque blues-rock, into the pure, dirty heart of the garage-rock revival. They reach the last line of a verse, where a cliched blues band would break off for the lyrics' payoff, and crash right through it. The fist-pumping guys in the crowd surge, frenzied.

A year and a half ago, the Keys were an opening act in the Beachland's small tavern. Since then, they've sold out an entire tour of Australia, toured Britain twice and played on BBC radio and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." The American and British musc press has raved about their albums, "The Big Come Up" and "Thickfreakness," the latter recorded in Carney's Akron basement.

"We just did the same thing we were doing since we were in high school," says Auerbach, 24. He and Carney, 23, met at Akron's Firestone High. Rap's rhythms inspired Carney to drum, while Auerbach obsessed over bluesmen. He drove to Mississippi three times to try to meet blues guitarist Junior Kimbrough, and ended up playing guitar with T-Model Ford, who was on the Fat Possum blues label with Kimbrough.

"I dropped out of college pretty soon after that and started playing full time," Auerbach says. Now, the Keys are on Fat Possum, too, while riding the wave of minimalist rock led by the White Stripes and the Strokes. "We're a rock-and-roll band," Auerbach says.

Jimmy Scott

He smiles as he sings the sad songs. The small, gaunt man in a tuxedo, age weighing on his face, opens his Nighttown set with "All of Me" and beams through the classic breakup tune, happy to be onstage. In the heart-shredding "The Masquerade Is Over," he draws out the end of "masquerade," then smiles again, pleased to hit the note just right.

Cleveland native Jimmy Scott is, The New York Times Magazine once wrote, "perhaps the most unjustly ignored American singer of the 20th century." He performed with Charlie Parker at Birdland and was one of Billie Holiday's favorite singers. His timing, his way of holding onto a syllable, resisting the beat, lets his emotion tremble, suspended in the moment. He has the rarest of voices: an adult male alto. A hereditary hormone deficiency kept him from reaching puberty.

Like Holiday, Scott, 77, embodies his songs' sorrows. His mother died when he was 13. People mocked his size and feminine voice. Fame eluded him. Legal troubles suppressed "Falling in Love is Wonderful," his classic recording with Ray Charles, for 40 years. He worked as a Terminal Tower elevator operator when his career faltered.

But life was waiting, behind the beat, to reward him. Scott's warm comeback album, 1992's "All the Way," sold 48,000 copies. He's been touring and recording ever since. A biography and a Bravo channel documentary tell his story. A movie may follow.

This winter, Scott married his manager, Jeanie McCarthy-Scott, and went on a working honeymoon, performing in London, Paris, Monaco, Vienna and Istanbul. He'll sing one song at this month's Tri-C Jazz Fest tribute to producer Tommy LiPuma.

"Many who grew up with me, they're long gone, but I'm still singing," Scott says. "To know there's still a place for you, that's saying something."

The Six Parts Seven

A warm electric guitar line climbs through a precise maze of bass notes and drums as the whine of a pedal steel guitar echoes in the background. The Six Parts Seven's ornate instrumental compositions are part stream-of-consciousness musicianship, part waking dream and part motion-picture score.

Founded in 1995 by brothers Allen (guitar) and Jay Karpinski (drums), the band's purely instrumental approach has allowed it to carve its own niche in the indie-rock scene. Tim Gerak (guitar) and Mike Tolan (bass) round out the group's core, while Eric Koltnow (vibraphone) and Ben Vaughan (pedal steel guitar) have recently joined the band's constantly evolving lineup of collaborators.

Signed to Seattle's Suicide Squeeze record label, the band turned heads with its dreamy, guitar-focused 2002 release, "Things Shaped in Passing." Last year, it released "Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs," a musical experiment the group took on with the help of vocalists from a host of its indie-rock contemporaries. Each was asked to create a new song out of one of the band's existing compositions.

"The only rule was just the idea that they take our song and use it like it would be another instrument and use that to construct their own song out of it," Allen Karpinski explains. "A song they would want to have on one of their own albums."

The result was an impressive release that veers from cozy folk to straightforward rock over the course of its nine songs — something for fans to enjoy while The Six Parts Seven works on its next full-length effort, in which Karpinski says the band's sound will change shape once again.

"It's impossible to not change and I think it has a lot to do with the influence of the other people we've been playing with," he adds. "Having a revolving cast of musicians around, a steady group, has helped us progress."

Jaded Era

Jaded Era was once the band that whipped off No Doubt cover songs for their friends at middle-school dances and high-school parties. In January, the band hosted WMMS' "High School Rock Off" at the Odeon, topping the affair with a scorching end-of-the-night set that proved just how far the quartet has come since graduation.

"The first four years was playing our garages, playing dances, having a tip jar," recalls guitarist Jeff Andrea, who has performed with bassist Marco Hilj, singer Kira Leyden and drummer Eric Ortopan — all of them 21 or younger — for more than eight years.

They've opened for national acts such as Sugar Ray, put college on hold and started talking seriously about moving to the West Coast.

"I don't think we ever thought it would go this far," says Hilj. "It just started out as having fun, having a good time."

That good time took Jaded Era to Los Angeles' famed Viper Room last year to perform for record executives on the back of their 2003 release "Invisible," a catchy collection of pop-rock songs recorded at producer Tim Patalan's Michigan horse farm.

"Working with him brings a vision to the song," says Ortopan. "That's what he helped us out with the most. Now, when we write songs, it just comes out that way."

But live is where Jaded Era shines, proven by the band's ability to pull in as many as 600 people for a performance, as it did the night of the "Invisible" release party.

"It's about making it a show again," says Leyden. "The way the music industry is, people are numb to everything. If you do something unique and experiment and put on a real show, then you can make waves. That's what we try to do."


For 40 days and nights this winter, Mushroomhead toured the West Coast in support of its Universal Records release "XIII." Total days off: two. And one of them was a travel day spent corralled in a 45-foot tour bus shared by 15 people.

This is the life of a major-label band. And this is exactly what Mushroomhead has worked more than a decade to achieve. Now, the longtime local phenomenon — known for its thickly layered heavy-metal sound, elaborate costumes and searing live show — is working the national stage. And though one might think being signed to the biggest record label in the world would change things, the band is still the same grounded, tirelessly hard-working group of musicians.

"The label isn't giving tour support," explains drummer Skinny. "We are supporting ourselves. It's still very much hands-on, do-it-yourself for us."

But now, instead of just selling out The Agora, the eight-member group is packing 800-capacity concert clubs in cities they've never visited before. Not bad for a band that was originally conceived as an experimental side project in the early '90s.

"I think we were all shocked since we were in other bands," recalls singer J. Mann. "We just viewed this as a side project and instantly, within six months, we were playing shows that were bigger and bigger."

Mushroomhead's legend has finally and fittingly expanded beyond Cleveland: "XIII" debuted at No. 40 on the Billboard albums chart last October. But don't think the band has forgotten about the rabid local fans that launched it in the first place.

"We've been everywhere and there is no scene like Cleveland," declares Skinny. "Those kids are devoted, hard-core. We just never stopped. We were relentless with it. Without Cleveland, we couldn't be where we are now."

The Browntown Life

Can a band that blends rock, R&B, hip-hop and Japanese soul find success in a blue-collar, Rust Belt music scene spilling over with heavy-metal fans? In a city world-famous for rocking, a local act called Finless Brown is hoping to prove that Cleveland still has room for something funky.

Nights like tonight test how bad you want it. Six inches of snow already coat Cleveland. Two more are coming down fast. The roads are slick. It's a perfect night to not be out until midnight, especially if you have to work in the morning.

But Finless Brown practices every Tuesday and Thursday, and tomorrow, Friday, is the band's first show of the year. So, on an otherwise quiet block in Cleveland Heights, one house pulses bass that threatens to rattle loose the 2-foot icicles hanging from its roof.

Dark, cramped and littered with instruments, the basement is a clubhouse for card-carrying members of a generation that does not significantly distinguish between musical genres. In 2004, good music is good music. The diligent music fan takes it where he finds it. Finless drummer Akwaman's CD collection contains P-Funk, Ween, Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys, St. Germain, Outkast and Johnny Cash. Alphabetical order juxtaposes Bob Dylan, Eazy-E and Eminem. A CD case on the wall holds bassist Huge's respectable clusters of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Santana and Neil Young.

Practicing beneath the rhythm section's house, all its members within reach of 30, the band looks like its music: a mix of seasoned ingredients, archetypes and fresh faces. They're churning through "Game Tell," which resonates with vintage funk — insistent play on a wah-wah pedal pushes over a sticky bass line as English rap vocals blend with Japanese rhymes.

Pumping the pedal with his foot, guitarist Sebastian "Paco" Bendezu wears slack, earth-toned attire, a few days' stubble and dark curls in his eyes like an amiable sheepdog. Knit cap pulled over his eyes, Aaron "DJ Tron" Frank looks like someone's kid brother with a boyish round face and square jaw buried in his chest as he nods. Just under 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, Scott Huge (pronounced Yoo-geeý looms in a yellow hooded sweatshirt. He's made for the bass guitar, cradling the natural ash body of his Warwick against his large frame while playing a bumping funk bass line. Jason "Akwaman" Eggert, who does bear a slight resemblance to the cartoon character Aquaman, keeps a simple, irresistible beat.

Out front, Itoko "Moto" Richardson leans on her husband and fellow emcee, Paul "Paulie Rhyme" Richardson, who has just enough hair to keep his head warm. As she does, their cultures — she's a native of Japan and he's African American — seem to converge in the music. His thick bicep bulges as he raises the microphone and shakes his stocky body. She smiles and raps a Japanese verse in a strong vibrato. The band takes nearly three hours to work its way through the hourlong set, repeating each song until all members agree they've done it right.

The music would both fit in and stand out anywhere. In a city with more cosmopolitan tastes, Finless Brown might have been discovered already. In Cleveland, things are different.

A quick look at the city's entertainment listings reveals an endless stream of rock bands, skewed toward visiting and resident headbanger acts. Cleveland spawned the successful hip-hop clan Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in the early '90s, but the city's other success stories have all been metal acts — Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Chimaira and and the local Mushroomhead — bands with the bigger followings are continuing the tradition, guaranteeing more rock nights at local venues. In a good month, the city hosts three local hip-hop shows. Posted in the rehearsal space, a two-month calendar drawn on white butcher paper shows just four Finless Brown shows.

Time was, the city's bigger groups could pack rooms all over Northeast Ohio several times a month. Now, rock, once a subculture, has become a very popular culture. Beachland Ballroom owner Cindy Barber grew up in the '60s, when live rock meant a Friday-night dance at the Wildwood Beach pavilion with the Tree Stumps or seeing Bob Seger at the Rolling Stone Teen Club with 20 other people.

During one week in the relatively slow months of February, the city's four major independent clubs held a total of 25 shows, 14 headlined by national touring acts and 11 exclusively featuring local groups. In those 25 shows, 70 bands performed, 20 of them national and 50 local. In this environment, no band may ever own the city the way Michael Stanley did.

"There are so many bands, so much competition," says Barber. "It's hard to get people to come see you, especially when so many national and local acts are playing. It's fractured the audience."

Huge and Akwaman's abode is Finless Brown Central. Above the basement, a string of colored Christmas lights linger in the dim living room. Plants ring the space. To the side, a computer is wired for sound, all the power of a small recording studio programmed into a desktop machine. Breaking from practice, they pass cans of Budweiser around and tell their story.

After years as a hip-hop promoter, Paulie began to suspect that performing was the choice end of the business. Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, Moto came to Cleveland in the mid-'90s, at age 20. A few years later, she was contributing vocals to pop and R&B projects when Paulie met her during his rounds. The two became an item and started writing songs together. As a joke, she began rapping in Japanese. It sounded good.

"Moto's voice is like an instrument," says Paco. "In rock, you often have no idea what the singer is saying. When you play guitar, there are no words, but it makes you feel something. Her voice does that, even if you don't know what she's talking about."

By 2002, Paulie and Moto were married, and Finless Brown became their family. The emcees attend band functions as Moto and Paulie — not Mr. and Mrs. Richardson — avoiding one textbook band conflict: the voting bloc. Rather than playing mom and dad to the group, the couple function as two equal siblings. Practice moves along democratically. But when it's time to get down to business, Paulie takes the role of the older brother.

Aided by Paulie's knowledge of the club scene, Finless quickly made their way to top bills at big clubs. Two years later, the band is making regional inroads, headlining major Cleveland clubs and venturing as far as New York City's CBGB's. For the last year, they've played once a month at the Grog Shop, the East Side's indie-rock mecca.

Akwaman has high hopes for the following day's gig at the Grog, but he realizes that the business has few guarantees and will extend him none in the foreseeable future. "We're just trying to get more people than last time," he says, not disappointed with the 300 fans they drew New Year's Eve, but always looking to improve. "If we knew the secret, we'd be doing better, I'll tell you that."

Like virtually all unsigned musicians, the band members still work day jobs. Paulie sells men's clothes at Nordstrom, where Akwaman works in stock. Huge spends days in Progressive Insurance's IT department. Tron owns some commercial properties. Moto is a manager for Xanadu Boutique, an exotic clothing store. Since he was 16, Paco has worked in music retail, using one side of the business to subsidize his life in the other.

"A band is a startup business, but way riskier," he observes.

"The band makes money, but it doesn't make money," adds Paulie. "It all goes back into the band."

"It's almost self-sufficient," says Akwaman. "When you discount the startup — guitars, amps, things you buy — playing a show a month, you can't do it."

Michele De Frasia has booked Lakewood's Phantasy Concert Club Complex — three clubs and a theater since 1980 and now owns it. In the '90s, Phantasy helped establish Cleveland breakouts Nine Inch Nails and Filter. De Frasia now concentrates on local shows.

"It's hard to find regional bands that draw," she says. "And there's no more exposure on radio for local bands. Back in the '80s, the local FM stations had local shows and they played local acts during the day. The lack of exposure hurts the door. Why would people listen to a local band if they don't know who it is?"

Near midnight Friday evening is usually the late-night equivalent of rush hour. On the coldest evening of the young year, the city's arteries aren't empty, but they're close.

Cleveland Heights is lit up, but has uncharacteristically little pedestrian traffic. Six dollars buys admission to the Grog Shop, where a sparse crowd of 75 has plenty of room to stretch.

A red-brick box, the Grog holds 400 on a capacity night. Tonight's crowd drinks Newcastle Brown in bottles and Pabst Blue Ribbon in 24-ounce cans. Before their set, Finless mingles with the crowd, generally indistinguishable from the college-age rock fans in caps, uneven beards and hooded sweatshirts. An equal number of young professionals wear sweaters, shiny Doc Martens and unscuffed leather jackets.

Finless Brown takes the stage, nearly level with the crowd. Huge lets loose a rallying bass riff similar to the introduction to a blues revue as the band launches into "No. 2." By their third song, the crowd has swollen to nearly 125.

"Finless Brown," Paulie says between songs, "rhymes with •You love the sound.' " In conversation, he describes the band's work as "politically driven party music." He dedicates the chunky "Chain Gang" to people blowing off steam, and Finless Brown's music becomes the equivalent of the crowd's presence: a response to the pressures of everyday life. Paulie and Moto trade lines, alternately rapping and singing: "A million miles/A million roads/A million lives/A million souls/Watch the story unfold/ Some people were bought and sold/But today we're all the same/ Working this chain gang."

"How many people had to work today?" Paulie asks, eliciting a collective "Yeah!" from the audience. "I had to work today," he says. "Keep dreaming. It gets better."

Van Cull has co-owned Peabody's DownUnder since 1999. The downtown rock-and-roll-with-two-capital-R's club sees two or three all-local lineups sell out every month.

Not many bands can sell 600 tickets. Quite a few can sell 150. Four of them on the same bill can fill a club. Regardless of genre, Cull sees one common denominator to Cleveland's successful bands.

"It's really simple," he says. "It's one word: work. You have to practice three to four times a week. And go out to Ohio City, Coventry, Lakewood, five, six nights a week, talk to people. When Mushroomhead were coming up, their fliers and stickers were everywhere."

The following Tuesday, the band's next show is barely in sight, but Finless Brown is already working on it. The otherwise precise Paulie can't begin to guess how many hours go into updating the band's Web site, sending news to the 1,700 names on their e-mail list, making fliers and distributing them to their boosters — the Browns Bombers, the band lovingly calls them — who in turn help pass them out and paste them up in their neighborhoods.

This afternoon, Paco plans to spend some time in the studio. Before work, Paulie has to get some fliers made. First, they put their heads together at Paulie and Moto's apartment, the upper half of a house hidden in the center of a Chinatown block. Moto buzzes around, preparing for work. Paulie and Paco mull mixed reactions to Friday's turnout: 125 faithful on that cold night was nearly half of their average draw of 200.

"They were rowdy," recalls Paulie, content with the crowd's quality, if not its size. A Saturday show in Columbus the day after the Grog was better.

"This one guy, he wouldn't let us stop," remembers Paulie, smiling. "He kept asking, 'Two more songs. Two more songs.' He said he'd buy a CD if we played two more songs. So we did. He bought eight. We sold all 13 CDs we brought with us."

The band released its debut, "The Browntown EP" in September 2003, garnering positive notices in a handful of obscure sources. CD sales mean more at this level than they will if Finless Brown signs to a major label. Once that happens, a band must recoup promotion, recording and production expenses before nebulous accounting procedures yield a check. Bands that sell hundreds of thousands of discs over years may still not make money on record sales. Live shows are where the money is.

Paulie estimates they've sold 200 CDs. "We give 'em out and more people show up at the shows," he says.

The much-debated Internet seems to help artists such as Finless Brown. The band has sold discs to people in Denver, the Netherlands, Fra

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